The Butaro District Hospital

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Can a building heal?

As late as 2008, the Burera District in Northern Province of Rwanda was one of the last two districts in the country without a functioning hospital. The population lacked access to a single doctor. Consequently, Burera District had very poor health indicators compared to other areas of Rwanda. In late 2007, Partners In Health began working in with the Government of Rwanda to rebuild the Burera district’s health system.

MASS Design Group was brought in by PIH to help plan and design a state-of-the-art facility that would help reverse these conditions. MASS Design Group and PIH’s partnership created a holistic model of architecture that choreographed the process of construction to employ, educate, and empower the local community.

The new facility, which opened in January 2011, is designed to mitigate and reduce the transmission of airborne disease through various innovative systems, including overall layout, patient and staff flow, and natural cross-ventilation. Local materials—such as the volcanic rock from the Virunga mountain chain—and local labor-intensive practices delivered site-appropriate, sustainable design, and stimulated the local economy. The careful coordination of design and construction held the budget of the hospital to two-thirds of comparable projects elsewhere in Rwanda.

Landscapes at Butaro

Well-planned exterior environments throughout a facility’s campus can provide a greater sense of privacy, the circulation of cool air through patient rooms, and the draining of rainfall away from the building. Increased vegetation and patient views to gardens have also been shown to reduce stress and pain perception, as well as retain nurses within health care facilities.

In the Butaro District Hospital, we planted trees and shrubs to help stabilize the steep hillside. Additionally, we created shaded seating areas throughout the campus that encourage patients to remain outside where the chance of airborne disease transmission is greatly reduced. In the same spirit, a children’s play area was placed in the central courtyard. We minimized hardscaped areas, favoring semipermeable landscaping to prevent the formation of pools of water, which can serve as breeding sites for vector-borne diseases. With well-designed pathways, improved wayfinding and a deliberate circulation strategy, landscaping is instrumental in improving health outcomes.

Watch MASS senior director Sierra Bainbridge and master gardener Jean Baptiste discuss working together to design and create the landscape.

Photo of gardener Jean Baptiste from Nziza Cyane documentary

Nziza Cyane

Landscapes that Heal

Project Details

-1.401405, 29.832337

Location: Burera District, Northern Province, Rwanda

Year: 2011

Status: Completed

Size: 6,000 sq. m.

Program: Masterplan, Building, Landscape, Furniture

Services: Architectural Design, Landscape Design, Master Planning, Construction Administration

Rwanda Ministry of Health
Partners In Health

Partners In Health