As a designer it is often very easy to impose an idea of what techniques, forms and spaces should be built without really involving the users in the design process. The Masoro Village Project by GA|Collaborative is an example of a different approach that led to a completely collaborative design. In September 2013 the first prototype was finished. The project gave the villagers of Masoro not only a completely new skillset, they even started their own cooperative that supports new construction plans for their community.
The US-based non-profit organization GA|Collaborative aims to bring quality design and construction to disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. For the Masoro Village project they partnered with Dushygikirane, a women’s association founded and operated by women who survived the Rwandan genocide. The genocide and the following villagization (replacement of civilians to concentrated villages) left many people without a home and without the means to built a new one. In this project GA|C set out to find a cost-effective and sustainable building practice for the community and the country. To understand the specific culture and needs of Masoro, the people of GA|C have stayed in Masoro for five years, researching and developing possible design solutions with the villagers, transferring new skills and techniques.
During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, around 800,000 people were killed. Set of by the assassination of president Juvenal Habyarimana thousands of Hutus went into the streets and started a killing spree that went on for 100 days. Most of the violence was directed at the Tutsis, an ethnic minority that had been made the scapegoat for the many economic and social problems in Rwanda. After the genocide, Rwanda counted an enormous increase of HIV infections due to war rape, including babies born of rape to newly-infected mothers.
The main construction feature used in the construction of the EB House 01 is the EarthBag system. These woven polypropylene bags were originally developed as a military bunker construction technique but were adapted for civil purposes by Johnny Anderton of Eternally Solar, a South African agency. The bags are filled with earth from the location and can be used to form the bearing walls of the building. Being a waste product of oil production, polypropylene is a very affordable material that also helps in diminishing the carbon emission of the country. Protected from the sun polypropylene is nearly indestructible and will last a very long time.