Talking Architecture

arctalk Newman

On Wednesday, The Office was happy to host Kigali Institute of Science and Technology’s (KIST) Faculty of Architecture and Environmental Design (FAED) for a lecture on “Community Driven Design”. Charles Newman, an architect based in DRC, discussed his experiences with community projects in Congo and around the region.

Charles’ first project in Africa was a library in rural Tanzania, followed by renovation of a nearby school. By drawing on community knowledge, local materials, and by motivating his workers to work quickly and efficiently, Charles and his team were able to finish the project ahead of schedule and under budget. They were then able to use the extra time and money to rebuild a better school kitchen, one that saved time, fuel, and manpower.

Charles continued to work in East Africa, seeking more community-inclusive methods of design. His work included a computer lab in Maasai territory where he had had tribe women design the wall of a building in traditional Maasai jewelry patterns. The result was more than just a nice looking building; the Maasai now have a monument to their culture.

Now, Charles is working in the DRC on the largest community-driven architectural project in Africa, Tuungane. Led by the International Recue Committee (IRC), Tunngane’s goal is to garner community leadership and accountability at every step of the governance and design processes. Community members manage their own budgets, choose their own contractors, and determine their own projects. IRC believes that the more buy-in they receive from community members, the bigger the impact.

At the end of his talk, Charles took questions from the crowd, a mix of architects, students, and others, and opened up a discussion on the architect’s role in design. The group tackled issues like how to reconcile competing donor and client interests, and a wide range of perspectives were voiced.

The Office extends a big thanks to Charles, FAED, and all attendees for the enlightening and engaging evening!

To learn more:


Charles Newman

About Katherine

Katherine has been living in Rwanda since January of 2012, and has spent her time writing, teaching, managing, running, and generally enjoying sunshine and green hills. As Director of Creative Operations at The Office, Katherine focuses on public relations and community building. Most of her time is dedicated to ensuring that all Office members are happy, healthy, and positively contributing to our young and growing community.

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