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Competition: Hostels for Hope accommodation for women cancer patients, Tanzania

An international competition has been launched to deliver safe and affordable accommodation for women cancer patients in Tanzania (Deadline: 30 June)

Organised by health charity Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon (PRRR), the Hostels for Hope competition seeks innovative proposals for ‘homes away from home’ at two sites in the east African republic.

‘Tanzania has some of the highest rates of cervical and breast cancer in the world, yet currently only one hospital in the country of 49 million has specialised services to treat them,’ the competition brief states.

‘Women who travel long distances to receive care but lack the funds to pay for long-term lodging, or those who do not have family or friends near the hospital with whom they can stay during treatment, face the prospect of having to camp in the facility’s hallways or even outside.

‘As a result, many women choose to stay home and die rather than seek cancer treatment.’

The first hostel will serve Dar es Salaam’s Ocean Road Cancer Institute, which treats around 10,000 cervical and breast cancer patients every year, 60 per cent of whom live far away.

The second site is the new Bugando Medical Centre on the shores of Lake Victoria in Mwanza, which is planned to open later this year.

Supported by international architecture practice HKS, the American Cancer Society (ACS), the George W Bush Institute and Southern Methodist University, the project is based on ACS’s Hope Lodge initiative in the United States.

The supporting organisations found using traditional construction methods to build similar hostels in the two locations was ‘financially prohibitive’, and so launched the anonymous contest to find ‘inventive, aesthetically pleasing and cost-effective’ alternatives.

PRRR chief executive Celina Schocken said: ‘We know innovative people have solved similar challenges in the developing world by using modular units, prefabricated structures, local materials and ecologically sustainable approaches.’

She continued: ‘We are eager to see such creativity reflected in design concepts submitted for these wellness hostels, so that together, we can save lives. This is an opportunity for architects, engineers, designers, health workers and students to improve the quality of care provided to women in Tanzania.’

As well as saving lives, the project also aims to advance socially responsible architecture and provide opportunities for aspiring architects – including young African professionals – to gain practical experience.



Source: Hostels for Hope

BMC contest site in Mwanza

Entrants may submit concepts for either location or for a prototype suitable for both sites. Teams are welcome, and the competition has both student and professional categories.

Proposals must engage the local community through the construction process, minimise both construction cost and time, and provide a contextual response to Tanzania’s culture, climate and landscape.

Eco-friendly elements, advanced infection-control facilities, natural ventilation techniques and views of surrounding natural amenities are essential parts of the brief.

Each hostel will accommodate between 40 and 50 women with two patients sharing each room. The buildings will include fully equipped kitchens, bathrooms and large recreational facilities. A system for patient monitoring and staff-patient communications will also be needed.

Similar projects include the Women’s Opportunity Centre in neighbouring Rwanda by Sharon Davis Design (pictured above). The New York-based studio also completed a temporary housing project using traditional building materials in the same country last year (pictured below).

A CAD file detailing the Bugando site is available and a survey for the Ocean Road site will be uploaded to the competition website shortly.

Judges include Architecture for Humanity co-founder Cameron Sinclair, HKS health group director Jeff Stouffer and Kristen Solt of the American Cancer Society.

The winners – set to be announced in late September or early October – will receive $8,000 each and an invitation to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony of their completed scheme.

How to apply

Submissions deadline

30 June

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information


Rwanda share houses case study: Q&A with Sharon Davis

The director of Sharon Davis Design discusses lessons learned from a similar project in Rwanda

Sharon Davis

Sharon Davis

Source: Image by Elena Seibert

Sharon Davis

Why are low-cost, innovative and sustainable buildings the best solution for briefs and locations like these?

In areas and communities where resources are scarce, it is especially critical to build in affordable and sustainable ways. Affordability and sustainability go hand in hand. Local materials are cost-effective and promote the local economy. If a project uses readily available, local materials, it will continue to be sustainable through its lifecycle, which ensures viability and utility.

What local East African materials might participants consider using?

Generally, when we talk about ‘local materials’ in East Africa, we are speaking at a hyper-local level. This makes it difficult to generalise about the whole region. That said, we have had much success with local quarried stone, earth block, clay fired brick, eucalyptus, light gauge steel, clay tile, rammed earth, earth bag and ferro-cement.

Which strategies for engaging local people in the construction process have worked in the past, and why?

Local people typically know how to source and work with local materials. Therefore there is a natural benefit to working with local labour. It also supports the local economy and therefore builds support and buy-in from the community for the project. Sometimes it is important to teach skills in rural areas, so we often account for job training by a handful of skilled workers to help improve the overall skill levels of the workforce. This, in turn, improves the quality of workmanship in the entire area.



Source: Image by Bruce Engel

Rwandan shared housing project by Sharon Davis Design



Source: Image by Bruce Engel

Rwandan shared housing project by Sharon Davis Design

Q+A with competition judge Cameron Sinclair

Cameron Sinclair

Cameron Sinclair

Cameron Sinclair, Hostels for Hope juror and co-founder of Architecture for Humanity

What is your vision for the project?
Every once in a while a design opportunity comes along with both purpose and impact. With those suffering from cancer in desperate need of short- and medium-term accommodation, the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Hostels for Hope competition is that call to respond. Tanzanian women have some of the highest cervical and breast cancer rates in the world, yet in a country of 49 million they have two centres to get treatment. That’s right: two. Coupled with limited access is the inability for these women to have somewhere to stay while receiving treatment and a place to heal - we need the profession to help change that.

What sort of architects are you hoping will participate?
We are not looking for the latest innovations in construction, nor the best computer-generated forms. We are looking for compassionate and caring architects, who believe in creating a nurturing environment and developing solutions to allow for low-maintenance and adaptable buildings for the growing infrastructure in the country. The two locations of the hostels are real sites, with the aim of building the winning solutions, allowing 80-100 women the access to care they so vitally need.

What will you be looking for in the submissions?
Beyond meeting international building codes and accessibility standards, we are looking for contextual sustainability with an inclusive construction methodology that will impact in the local community. The design should incorporate infection control and natural ventilation techniques to provide a safe and comfortable environment. As this is a place of healing and recovery, integrating nature, natural light and gardens would be beneficial. We look forward to seeing your entries!

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