In Rwinkwavu, a rural village in Rwanda’s Eastern Province, the Komera Leadership Center provides health, education, and mentorship programs for young women. Designed by architectural studio BE_Design, the Leadership Center also supports family development initiatives and acts as a hub for local residents.
In Rwanda, “Komera” means “be strong, have courage.” The Leadership Center invests in young women through educational initiatives, community development, and sport. Within its village setting, the Center sits on the main road, opposite a football pitch.
The vast majority of the Center’s construction materials were sourced locally and the facility was constructed in collaboration with community-based Rwanda Village Enterprises. “BE_Design employed a local workforce that maintained an average of 40 percent female representation, and provided on-site skilled labor training, good income and savings accounts, PPE and safety equipment, and marketable construction skills,” says the studio. The Leadership Center’s design had close community input, with contributions made throughout the entire project — from conception to completion.
The building’s roof forms, intricately woven eucalyptus screens, and brick patterns are inspired by the popular “Imigongo” art form that originates from the region: “Imigongo” art is traditionally made by women using cow dung (the dung is blended with ash to kill bacteria and odor). This is applied to wooden boards in spiral and geometric designs, and mixed with bright and natural colors. The building’s structural design has a connection with the Center’s “Komera” name: standing strong and embracing courage.
The undulating rooftop connects a number of areas throughout the Center, including administration, health, counseling, classroom, gathering, kitchen, and dining spaces. “[The roof creates] an abundance of covered exterior spaces for break-out classes and informal meetings,” says BE_Design. “The large eucalyptus screens provide shade and a sense of enclosure and privacy for the exterior spaces.”
At the heart of the building, a flexible area is designed to function as a gathering hall or a series of classrooms that can accommodate the Leadership Center’s array of activities and programs. BE_Design included large, hinged translucent panels that easily transform the space. The panels create three classrooms when closed; when opened to 90 degrees, they form a large community meeting hall; when fully opened to 270 degrees, the space can accommodate larger events such as performances and ceremonies.