with a design that challenges the traditional idea of a clinical environment, heffrence teow presents his proposal for HOPE dental center in kigali. the project has been developed in response to a call from his hands on africa (HHOA) – a non-profit organization seeking to set up a dental clinic and training institute in the rwandan capital. combining a subtle architectural expression with a series of inviting green spaces, teow’s scheme aims to create a welcoming sanctuary centred on the values of love and compassion.
overlooking the kacyiru neighborhood without any obstructions
all images courtesy of heffrence teow
heffrence teow‘s proposal stemmed from two fundamental questions: ‘how can we eliminate the perimeter walls to create a porous and welcoming space without compromising on security?’ and ‘how can we eradicate the anxiety of walking into a foreign space?’ the dental center is therefore imagined as a sunken space cut into the ground and hugged by the surrounding topography. metaphorically a womb, it becomes a peaceful place insulated from the bustle of the streets outside, forming a place of solace and a warm refuge.
the imigongo canopy drapes over the sunken space with an elevated walkway providing porous connectivity
in contrast to the formality of healthcare facilities, which can feel overwhelming, this proposal intends to create a more pleasant and inviting experience. the design breaks down the components of the facility and weaves them into the landscape. using the ground as a natural barrier, retaining walls that hold up the space double as the security threshold. an extended web of canopies further covers the site with planters and walkable platforms, replicating the original hill and reconnecting the existing walkway.
as indoor and outdoor blends together, the courtyard becomes the main activity and gathering space
with individual functions broken down as smaller building blocks and scattered around, they form negative spaces in between which extend outdoors as gathering areas or courtyard gardens. bridges, stairs and ramps further connect spaces and navigate between levels. in such an arrangement, not only does it disperse activities across the site, the indoor program is also able to break loose from the walls’ constraints and flow outwards. this spatial continuation allows each space to be connected to an outdoor garden, offering a calming view of green and a relaxing scent of nature.
courtyard overlooking the chapel with interlocking gardens and terraces
creating a sense of belonging is also a key criterion in the design in order to make people feel comfortable and at ease. an intimate relationship is drawn between the dental center and the community it serves to craft a place that locals can relate to and be proud of. two local identities (one in terms of community and the other cultural) are integrated into the design to enhance the sense of belonging. first, the urban pattern and scale of the kigali neighborhood is replicated into the dental center by breaking down the large site into smaller human scale spaces that are distributed and interconnected within the landscape. the result being a space that feels more like an extension of the neighborhood instead of an object dropped onto the landscape.
rooftops, bridges, ramps and terraces are connected, manoeuvring along the landscape
secondly, to further heighten the attachment of the locals and their pride towards the new dental center, the much-celebrated rwandan geometric art of imigongo is translated into the structural layout pattern and roof canopy. not only is this an expression of how the spaces are designed based on rwandan geometries, the canopy also serves as a poetic representation of rwanda’s effort in accommodating its people under one roof for better healthcare and a better future.
HOPE dental center blending in with the landscape as a humble gesture
making the architecture of humility
making the architecture of therapy
making the architecture of familiarity
project name: HOPE dental center
project staus: proposal
location: kigali, rwanda
design: heffrence teow
designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.
edited by: lynne myers | designboom