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Girubuntu Primary School

MASS Design Group

Kigali, Rwanda

By Clifford A. Pearson

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In addition to designing the Girubuntu school, MASS Design Group founders Michael Murphy and Alan Ricks helped select its site, get approvals, and build the organizational infrastructure to support it. Working with their client, Brooks Newmark, and his charity A Partner In Education (APIE), the designers (who were still at Harvard's GSD when planning began in 2007) immersed themselves in Rwandan society, culture, and bureaucracy. “I personally purchased the property, then had Brooks transfer money into my bank account,” says Murphy.

The new buildings house nine classrooms, a library, a computer room, administration space, and a kitchen, which replace a rundown facility one mile away. They use local materials such as brick and bamboo, and rely on natural ventilation and sun shading to reduce energy consumption. Set on a terraced hillside, they incorporate outdoor spaces (some covered by sloping roofs) as extensions of the classrooms. MASS's project manager and project architect Sierra Bainbridge used verendeel trusses for the roofs, employing clerestories that bring in the strong equatorial sun from above to balance light from windows. Classes in the new school began in January 2012.

ARCHITECT: MASS Design Group — Michael Murphy, Alan Ricks, Garret Gantner, Sierra Bainbridge, Andrew Brose, Branden Collins, Ebberly Strathairn, Eric Mutabazi, project team.

BUDGET: $280,000.

CONTEXT: The school sits on a hillside in the Kabeza neighborhood of Kigali, which is growing rapidly with both low- and higher-income residents.

March 2012
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