ENTEBBE, FEBRUARY 10 – Emergency teams up with one of the world most famous architects, Renzo Piano, to improve the quality of children health care in Uganda. Gino Strada, the founder of the Italian NGO, and Piano, simbolically laid the first stone of the new pediatric health center on Lake Victoria, 35 kms from the capital Kampala. President Museveni, the Minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng and the Italian Ambassador Domenico Fornara attended the groundbreaking ceremony: “Today it’s an important day for us at Emergency”, Strada said.
The hospital will provide free high quality care to children from Uganda and other neighboring countries. Infant mortality death rate in Uganda is of 138 children under five over 1000 births. Providing surgical care is paramount to improve this data and give to all the children of Uganda a future. “Our vision of Africa has recently undergone a slow but steady development, from neglected continent to the new frontier of an evolving world. The challenge of this new project of Emergency NGO is to combine the practical requirements of a paediatric surgery hospital in Africa with the desire to create a model piece of architecture: rational, tangible, modern, beautiful, but firmly linked to tradition”, Piano stated on his web site.
The hospital will be more than a mere hospital: it will be the first architectural work in Africa designed by someone who, over the past decades, has actually written the story of architecture. This project is a sign of extreme symbolic importance for the promotion of health care and culture in Uganda and in the whole of Africa.
The building will follow the curves that slope down to the lake. By following the course of the land, the hospital walls and the boundaries of its outdoor pathways will form terraces on which the hospital itself will stand, in a spatial continuum between interior and exterior, above and below. The stacked walls will break the distinction between the various zones, creating a unity between the lake, the park and the internal hospital environment.
Earth is the raw material used to build the homes of the poorest people in most parts of the world. It’s a simple, cheap building technique but one which, in Africa, is associated by most people with a past of poverty that needs to be forgotten. Piano’s team was fascinated by the idea of giving back some dignity to this technique, using the excavated land to build the load-bearing walls with the rammed earth technique.
The rammed earth technique is an ancient building method involving a mixture of earth, sand, gravel, binding agents and a little water, compressed in wooden or metal frames or moulds. The great advantage is that the material is available locally, and there’s no need for cement or highly specialised workers . An eye on sustainability, right from the construction phase.
Born from the earth, the building will get its energy from the sun. The roof will be made from a suspended trellis structure supporting 9,800 square metres of photovoltaic panels (equal to the surface of a football pitch). This system will ensure that the hospital has an autonomous electricity supply during the day. It will also be connected to the main line, to provide energy to the surrounding area at times when consumption is low. The photovoltaic roof, “floating” above the building, will also guarantee shade for the hospital and all the uncovered walkways. (@alebal)