Some of of the greatest social and environmental challenges are focused around the issue of reproductive rights. Italian-based FAREstudios created a brilliant architectural solution to the issue by developing a refuge and Women’s health clinic in a poor suburb of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in West Africa. The complex is a a new type of care center that provides health and social resources for women in impoverished communities using a site-appropriate sustainable architecture model. The Woman’s Clinic provides an important lesson in integrated design, which led it to be honored as a finalist for the 2010 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
Health clinics are a vital resource that NGO’s and governments provide in impoverished and often isolated communities.The main goal of FAREstudios‘ clinic was to develop a replicable design and materials strategy that can be adopted throughout the tropical regions of Africa while taking a leading role in community health and development. This clinic is funded thought the Italian group AIDOS.
Due to the intense summer heat at this latitude, the main structural focus of the clinic is to reduce heat gain. The massive overhang is the building’s dominant feature, but other strategies such as site-made red clay bricks, raised floors to encourage ventilation, and surrounding greenscape all add to a dramatic reduction in dependency on AC. A series of covered verandas and well-placed buildings with generous openings further reduce heat buildup.
The Clinic has no utilities to tie into, so to reduce dependence on a generator a large solar array was installed. Water from the onsite well is pumped to a gravity tank. Because the large recyclable PVC canopy protects the facility, the architects could install a low cost transparent panel into the two building’s roof to provide generous indirect overhead natural light. They also designed the facility to be easily expandable if needed.
The buildings serve not just women’s health needs, but also act as a safe gathering place for education and informal community meetings. The education component relate to women’s sexual and reproductive rights – the text on the colorful exterior walls are in five languages and read “I have rights“. The Aga Kahn Award’s description sums up the role of the clinic: “Despite its unconventional appearance, the Centre has been able to generate a strong sense of belonging.”