Christian Benimana: Architecture with a mission

According to Benimana, before starting any project a designer must decide what his mission is and an architect must learn to think beyond the building.

Part of the Project

Part of the event

Christian Benimana, the programme manager for MASS Design Group in Rwanda, believes that every architecture project should have a transcendant idea: how can a hospital’s building better heal its patients, how can a school’s structure help the students learn.

After their work on the Butaro Hospital in Northern Rwanda, the designers at MASS realised that the architecture of a place can have a profound effect on the users. The hospital provided a dignified space for the patients to heal and seeing its effect made the architects at MASS determined to have same positive impact with all of their work.

We build better buildings and we invest in the people who build them. And we improve lives of people who get touched by any part of those buildings. – Benimana

Benimana explains some of the design thinking that went into the Umubano Primary School in Kigali. One big challenge faced by architects in Rwanda is the sloping terrain of the country, which give it its nickname of the land of a thousand hills. Benimana had to come up with a way of integrating the school into the slope and still have plenty of space for play. 

The younger students were given classrooms at the top of the hill, near to the administration, while the older children – who need less attention and a quieter learning environment – are in the bottom classrooms. The classrooms also have a colour-coded wayfinding system to help parents who aren’t literate or can't read english find their children.

This kind of holistic design approach was applied again at the Mubuga Primary School in Northern Rwanda. The aim was not only to provide more classrooms, but to improve educational output and once again, a heavy emphasis was put on play.

Benimana describes his colleagues as a “community of designers who think differently”. They are designers who think beyond the building.  

Christian Benimana will be speaking at Design Indaba Conference 2016. Book now.

Watch the Talk with Christian Benimana