Magnificent Metal Monday – Women for Women

Women’s Opportunity Center, Rwanda. photography by © Elizabeth Felicella In celebration of this week's International Women's Day and Women in Construction Week, Magnificent Metal Monday travels to Kayonza, Rwanda, to highlight an architectural project designed by acclaimed female-owned Sharon Davis Design and constructed to help empower women. Now reaching a decade, the Sharon Davis Design firm collaborated with the humanitarian organization Women for Women International in 2013 to create the Women's Opportunity Center (WOC) in order to energize the small community’s subsistence-agriculture economy through female empowerment. Located on a one-hectare site in the Kayonza district in eastern Rwanda, residents --- many of them survivors of war -- learn income-generating skills, such as animal husbandry and processing techniques that can sustain food cooperatives. The WOC also functions as a training and service hub for women’s entrepreneurship and innovation. Services include business mentoring, access to financial services and markets, cooperative and agri-business support. Credit: Sharon David Design Credit: Sharon David Design According to Sharon Davis Design, "The structure is organized in a manner akin to a vernacular Rwandan village, divided into 17 human-scale pavilions whose clustered arrangements engenders familiarity and community among occupants." While the hand-made clay bricks are a primary design and build element, the corrugated metal roofs placed on the pavilions serve to collect critically needed potable water. Vegetation planted on two of the structure provides their interiors with extra insulation. Sharon Davis Design explains, "Given the collaboration between design firm and the Women for Women organization, as such it also poses a more expansive role for architects. In particular, the design of the Women’s Opportunity Center takes social equity into consideration, by weaving job training into the scheme. Future students were assigned the manufacture of pavilions’ bricks, using clay extracted from nearby sites as well as a manual press method adapted from local building techniques. Hands-on construction administration improved workers’ skills, as well." Other eco-friendly and sustainable design features include solar power generation, rainwater harvesting, biogas fuel for cooking, and composting toilets. The ecologically integrated nature of the Center allows for unique, hands-on farm-to-table learning that advances key development outcomes. For example, composting toilets will provide fertilizer for the demonstration farm and kitchen gardens. Organic vegetables will be used for healthy cooking demonstrations and in the on-site restaurant to prepare nutritious meals for trainees, tourists and other visitors. (Source: Women For Women International). Aerial shot of Women Opportunity Center in Rwanda village of Kayonza Sharon Davis established Sharon Davis Design in 2007 as a collaborative design practice that celebrates architecture that supports women’s rights, social justice, economic empowerment, and sustainability. Her philosophy on social design came to life with the Women’s Opportunity Center in Rwanda. The purpose was to create a forward-thinking educational and community center in Kayonza to train and educate local women through farming. The project has been recognized by the following awards: Architizer A+ Award World Architecture Festival, 2013 World Architecture Festival, 2011  The Architectural Review, 2015 Culture Award Sharon's been featured in Arch20's, "Women In Architecture: 10 Successful Female Architects You Should Know," and Architizer's "50 Women Rocking the World of Architecture."
Women’s Opportunity Center, Rwanda. photography by © Elizabeth Felicella

In celebration of this week’s International Women’s Day and Women in Construction Week, Magnificent Metal Monday travels to Kayonza, Rwanda, to highlight an architectural project designed by acclaimed female-owned Sharon Davis Design and constructed to help empower women. Now reaching a decade, the Sharon Davis Design firm collaborated with the humanitarian organization Women for Women International in 2013 to create the Women’s Opportunity Center (WOC) in order to energize the small community’s subsistence-agriculture economy through female empowerment.

Located on a one-hectare site in the Kayonza district in eastern Rwanda, residents — many of them survivors of war — learn income-generating skills, such as animal husbandry and processing techniques that can sustain food cooperatives. The WOC also functions as a training and service hub for women’s entrepreneurship and innovation. Services include business mentoring, access to financial services and markets, cooperative and agri-business support.

According to Sharon Davis Design, “The structure is organized in a manner akin to a vernacular Rwandan village, divided into 17 human-scale pavilions whose clustered arrangements engenders familiarity and community among occupants.” While the hand-made clay bricks are a primary design and build element, the corrugated metal roofs placed on the pavilions serve to collect critically needed potable water. Vegetation planted on two of the structure provides their interiors with extra insulation.

Sharon Davis Design explains, “Given the collaboration between design firm and the Women for Women organization, as such it also poses a more expansive role for architects. In particular, the design of the Women’s Opportunity Center takes social equity into consideration, by weaving job training into the scheme. Future students were assigned the manufacture of pavilions’ bricks, using clay extracted from nearby sites as well as a manual press method adapted from local building techniques. Hands-on construction administration improved workers’ skills, as well.”

Other eco-friendly and sustainable design features include solar power generation, rainwater harvesting, biogas fuel for cooking, and composting toilets. The ecologically integrated nature of the Center allows for unique, hands-on farm-to-table learning that advances key development outcomes. For example, composting toilets will provide fertilizer for the demonstration farm and kitchen gardens. Organic vegetables will be used for healthy cooking demonstrations and in the on-site restaurant to prepare nutritious meals for trainees, tourists and other visitors. (Source: Women For Women International).

Aerial shot of Women Opportunity Center in Rwanda village of Kayonza

Sharon Davis established Sharon Davis Design in 2007 as a collaborative design practice that celebrates architecture that supports women’s rights, social justice, economic empowerment, and sustainability. Her philosophy on social design came to life with the Women’s Opportunity Center in Rwanda. The purpose was to create a forward-thinking educational and community center in Kayonza to train and educate local women through farming. The project has been recognized by the following awards:

Sharon’s been featured in Arch20’s, “Women In Architecture: 10 Successful Female Architects You Should Know,” and Architizer’s “50 Women Rocking the World of Architecture.”

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