Ilija Gubić, Stefanie Leontiadis, John Bugirimfura, Afsana Karigirwa, Julie Mugema, Armel Yuhi

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Rwanda’s plots and housing plans featured a circular shape until the time of colonization by Germany and Belgium, when—beginning with the house of Dr Richard Kandth in 1909—a new configuration of buildings and plots having a square or rectangular base was introduced. Today, some of Rwanda’s contemporary public buildings seem to recall traditional circular forms, merging local building tradition with the aesthetics of global architecture. With a population of more than 12 million and an annual growth rate of 2.8%, Rwanda aims to accelerate the pace of urbanization by making significant investments in urban infrastructure and the construction sectors of the capital city Kigali and secondary cities. This includes the recent revisiting and development of Rwanda’s master plans and the creation of strict guidelines for plots sizes dedicated to individual housing. This paper reconsiders the shapes that may emerge from these frameworks and raise the possibility of a re-emergence of traditional configurations that would reinforce Rwandan identity and transform rapid urbanization into a mechanism of cultural significance. This paper provides an overview of the historical, technical, cultural, and aesthetic values of pre-colonial architectural circular shapes, while also tracing those influences on twenty-first-century public buildings in Kigali and other cities of Rwanda. Authors consider as well how these traditional shapes may potentially be used in housing solutions given the current master plan requirements. Although the circle is not commonly used at present as a plan for single-family housing due to the technical challenges and higher construction costs involved, it nevertheless remains a historically and culturally important design having significant potential for future applications.


circular plans, built heritage, contemporary architecture, Rwanda

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