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Competition: Rukomo Chapel, Rwanda

An open international contest has been launched to design an iconic new church in rural Rukomo, Rwanda (Deadline: 2 June)

The contest seeks conceptual proposals for a new spiritual retreat and space for ‘peace and conciliation’ in a small religious community in Rukomo. The contest comes 25 years after social tensions saw around 1 million people murdered in the Rwandan genocide.

The call for concepts, organised by Young Architects Competitions, will be judged by a prestigious panel including Eduardo Souto de Moura and Peter Eisenman. The overall winner will receive €8,000 and a chance to see their scheme constructed.

Rukomo Chapel contest site, Rwanda

Rukomo Chapel contest site, Rwanda

Rukomo Chapel contest site, Rwanda

According to the brief: ‘Rwanda Chapel is the outcome of international collaboration. It aims at donating a real monument to Rukomo. It will be a symbol of global solidarity and cooperation.

‘One of the most exciting themes for generations of architects has always been the sacred space. Through contemporary architecture, architects will also have the chance to support one of the poorest areas of the planet.’

Located just south of the equator in Central and East Africa, the Republic of Rwanda is a largely rural country of around 11 million inhabitants. In 1994, Hutu extremists killed an estimated 1 million Tutsi Rwandans in a genocide which continues to impact the country today.

The competition focuses on a site located around 7km north from the town of Rukomo, in the Nyagatare district in the North East of Rwanda. With stunning views of surrounding forests and mountainside, the plateau has been earmarked as a new home for 100 nuns of the Order of St Clare which owns the land.

Rukomo Chapel contest site, Rwanda

Rukomo Chapel contest site, Rwanda

Rukomo Chapel contest site, Rwanda

The contest invites participants to draw up ‘contemporary, forward-looking solutions’ for the site which will become a new base for the local Catholic Clarisses convent. The organisation was established in 1981 by nuns from Italy and is now one of the most active religious orders in Africa.

Proposals should respond to the unique landscape context and also feature an entrance space, atrium, nave, presbytery, several focal points for religious services, an altar, ambo and celebrant’s chair area along with a potential bell tower, sacristy and portico.

The jury features eight architects including Pritzker prize winner Eduardo Souto de Moura, contemporary modernist Peter Eisenman, and the 2014 Sustainable Architecture Prize winner, Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao.

The overall winner, to be announced 10 July, will receive €8,000 and see their winning scheme constructed. A second prize of €4,000; third prize of €2,000, and two Gold mentions worth €500 each will also be awarded along with 10 honourable mentions.

How to apply

Deadline

The registration deadline is 2 June and submissions must be completed by 5 June

Fee

Regular registration until 5 May: €92.25
Late registration from 6 May to 2 June: €110.70

Contact details

Email: yac@yac-ltd.com

View the competition website for more information

Aging in Africa Church case study: Q&A with Hollwich Kushner

The New York practice discusses lessons learned designing an innovative church for the Ivory Coast

How did your project deliver a new landmark church for the Ivory Coast?

For us, creating a landmark meant designing a project that would redefine the community. Our work is part of a larger initiative to change the fate of aging priests. In the Ivory Coast, aging people are taken care of by their children. But because priests do not marry, this family structure and support is unavailable to them. To address this, our project creates a place where the members of a village can take care of aging priests, who in turn educate the children in the village. It is a building of unity, a place where people come together in the spirit of mutual care. The physical design of the building reflects this—it is a formal and symbolic translation of the idea of unity that drives the program.

Aging in Africa Church by Hollwich Kushner

Aging in Africa Church by Hollwich Kushner

Aging in Africa Church by Hollwich Kushner

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

We were inspired by the rural architecture in the Ivory Coast, remarkable for its structural simplicity, the way it capitalises on natural ventilation, and its elegant use of natural materials. Combining these three elements, we devised an extremely restrained organisational diagram for the village. A north/south spine bisects the village, taking advantage of the prevailing winds on the site. The buildings feature large openings looking onto this spine, creating a dialogue between the structures and the public realm that reflects the project’s spirit of unity. These openings also maximise natural ventilation and views to the sea.

Aging in Africa Church by Hollwich Kushner

Aging in Africa Church by Hollwich Kushner

Aging in Africa Church by Hollwich Kushner

Each of our designs reinterprets the Ivory Coast’s vernacular architecture to create formally innovative buildings that are rooted in the region’s architectural traditions. For the church, for example, we extruded and abstracted a typical church form – with its defining steeple – to create a building that is contemporary while still engaging the timeless ideas and emotions associated with sacred places.

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing a new chapel for rural Rwanda?

The design must be rooted in and inspired by – rather than imposed upon – the local conditions, technical abilities, and the opportunities and limitations of a given site. Speak with and listen to the local people, the spiritual leaders, and the authorities to learn the cultures and traditions. Only through listening is it possible to design a building that will be well-received and achieve its goals.

Aging in Africa Church by Hollwich Kushner

Aging in Africa Church by Hollwich Kushner

Aging in Africa Church by Hollwich Kushner

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