Can Design Challenge Inequality?
Active Social Architecture (ASA) is a Kigali-based architecture practice that works on sustainable design and contemporary re-elaborations of vernacular Rwandan architecture, with a special focus on spaces for children and infants. While ASA is a commercial practice, most of their clientele consists of international relief agencies and NGOs, including UNICEF Rwanda, Plan International Rwanda, and others.
ASA was founded in 2012 by Nerea Amoros Elorduy and Toma Berlanda but since 2014 has been run by Zeno Riondato, Francesco Stassi and Alice Tasca. The three current principals actively teach at the School of Architecture, College of Science and Technology at UR Kigali, and many of the projects involve students at some level.
ASA’s work seeks to connect Rwandan vernacular traditions with contemporary needs, exploring the rich brick tradition common throughout Rwanda. ASA considers their designs as an “added educator” and works with the ambition that the physical form of a school can contribute to a child’s growth and stimulation.
While their work is largely focused on spaces for infants and children, ASA’s design philosophy encourages a blending of programs and uses. The spatial arrangement of an ASA project typically remains flexible, and can serve alternative uses such as adult education, community meetings, women’s cooperatives, and social gatherings.
In designing a space, ASA relies on a contemporary reinterpretation of the traditional Rwandan “urugo” settlement pattern, with a modular structure that can be adapted to Rwanda’s different terrains and topographies.
The ASA design philosophy also mandates that schools and centers be sited in a deliberate way. They must be centrally located, in a conspicuous and safe position, and thereby develop symbolic value for the entire community.
Through these means, ASA education and development centers work to reverse decades of structural inequality that denied rural Rwandans the educational opportunities that were often available to their urban counterparts.
We’ll be speaking with Alice Tasca and Toma Berlanda of Active Social Architecture on Social Design Insights on March 30, 2017 on the subject of how one’s design approach can mitigate inequality.