ECD&F (Early Childhood Development & Family) Centers – Description of ASA studio.
Implementation of ECD&F centres is one of UNICEF Rwanda’s flagship projects. The result of an holistic approach to architectural interventions, strengthening mother-child relationship, the basic unit of Rwandan social organization, will hopefully form the catalyst of change and poverty reduction. Carefully integrated with the physical and cultural landscape of the country, they are thought of as material and systemic ecosystems balancing the relationship between communities and their surroundings.
Working with UNICEF Rwanda has offered the opportunity to develop and refine ideas on how to build Early Childhood Development & Family centres, and test them at national level in 14 different locations, within very remote rural communities. It has been a unique opportunity to gather access to the different realities of the country, and particularly to test the replicability and adaptability of the design to varying topographic constraints, scarce and limited material resources, and with a wide range of expertise provided by the implementing partners. Workshops have been organized to understand the most important themes in local community life, and the design has been upgraded three times between 2013 and 2016 according to the capacity building performed during the construction and management phases.
The conceptual approach to the design rests on two pillars: it highlights the role of a central space as catalyst for community gathering, in a contemporary reinterpretation of the traditional “urugo” settlement pattern; and it conceives a modular structure, where components can adapt to different terrains and situations, but originate always similar facilities, organized around the central space.
Two main typologies are being tested throughout the ongoing construction: a circular plan and a S-shaped plan. Ideally the outcome of different aggregation of the modules, they are the result of the adaptation to varying topographies and plots. All have required adjustments and changes during the construction process, in an effort to source locally available materials and transport them to difficult and remote site locations, together with the challenge of reacting to different climatic and geological conditions, such as soil types and heavy rainfall.
In both types, the five different basic elements, stimulation classrooms, multipurpose hall, open demonstration kitchen, admin block and sanitation facilities are small reinforced masonry structures, built with locally produced fired bricks, assembled with Flemish bonds and vertical reinforcement bars, to improve stability and avoid the use of concrete. The brick pattern and the multiple openings of varying size, placed at different heights contribute to the sensorial stimulation and the learning of small children, while providing natural lighting and cross ventilation. A continuous porch, covered in ceramic tiles, allows for a variety of covered outdoor spaces, for both learning and communal activities. The whole compound is fenced, and includes a dedicated area for playgrounds and kitchen gardens, and has a underground tank for rainwater harvesting.