Women’s Health Pavilion
On Mother's Day 2003, the United Nations ranked Burundi as one of the world's five worst places for women and children. Still today, Burundian women die with startling frequency. Approximately one in 10 die during pregnancy or in childbirth. Nearly 13 percent of Burundian babies die before their first birthday; almost one in five die before they reach age five from preventable disease and illness.
“The Women's Health Pavilion will be transformative for women and children’s health care in Burundi, and will dramatically expand our clinical capacity.” – David Cohen, Executive Director
Acclaimed architect Louise Braverman designed the state-of-the-art facility after a trip to Kigutu where she met with more than 50 women from the community to discuss their most pressing health needs. In addition, she consulted with our medical staff and experts in global health to design the center. Having worked on multiple international projects and designed hospital facilities (including Roosevelt Hospital's C.V. Starr Hand Surgery Center), Braverman is uniquely suited to lead our effort.
The tiered plan for the facility includes 50 inpatient beds, three surgical suites, pre-op and post-op care, neonatal care and a dental suite. The most immediate step in the pavilion plan is to provide emergency obstetric services, with a roll out of additional capabilities over 2014, 2015 and 2016. Our clinical staff will need to increase to accommodate the new services offered. In addition to increased clinical services, we will be expanding women’s programs in the areas of gender-based violence, economic development and education.
From the architect
Our design for the Women’s Health Pavilion is a love affair with the east African natural and cultural landscapes in the context of sustainability, efficiency, and social advancement. Cutting a curved line in the terrain running parallel with the contours of the earth, the Pavilion is sited to capture views of a lush communal rain garden, one of many in the Master Plan that we have also created for the 40 acre site.
The innovative aesthetic of the 23,000 square foot building speaks to the future of Kigutu while simultaneously resonating with Burundian culture, materials, building practices, and landscape tradition. Given the mission of VHW to bring health to this rural village through collaborative efforts between the community and people in the United States, our design is an effort to help achieve that aspiration by creating a physical platform for a cultural shift from primal to modern medicine.
An emblematic design element of the Pavilion that reinforces the Kigutu outdoor communal culture is the arched roofed waiting porches that will seamlessly connect the inside and out. These porches take on multiple functions. Located between key medical spaces, including the outpatient/lab offices, nursery, inpatient wards, surgical lounge and delivery rooms, they will enhance healthy air flow by naturally ventilating adjacent rooms. They additionally will help define an architectural sense of human scale, for the layout of alternating medical spaces punctuated by porches will create a series of smaller modular pavilions within the larger Women’s Pavilion. The porosity of the porches will also encourage sociability while simultaneously framing magnificent unobstructed transverse views of the landscape beyond.
The same elemental design moves that establish its aesthetics will also advance its sustainability. Since the Kigutu community is currently 100% off the municipal grid, the Pavilion will be powered by a solar farm, capturing its required energy from the sun. The building will literally grow out of the landscape. Sited partially below grade and in alignment with the contours of the earth, the location of the building will both reduce excavation costs and take advantage of the earth’s natural insulation for temperature control.
In order to further embrace the notion of low environmental impact, the naturally ventilated waiting porches will eliminate much of the need for energy intensive air conditioning. The extended roof overhangs will also provide solar protection to optimize the use of natural daylight, while cisterns will capture rainwater for irrigation. Yet the greatest efficiency will be the human efficiency, for the members of the community, using locally produced high thermal mass insulating bricks and indigenous stone, will manually build the residence, negating the need for fuel consuming machines and creating transferrable job training skills for members of the Kigutu community.
At its very core the essence of our design for the Women’s Health Pavilion with its forward-thinking aesthetic and inventive off-the grid sustainability is really quite elemental. It is our response to Village Health Works fundamental belief communicated to me when we first met that “…despite the fact that these people are poor, they still deserve state of the art buildings that are beautiful”.