An Italian Gem in Ouagadougou : The CBF Health Centre

The CBF [Centre pour le Bien-être des Femmes] Women's Health Centre

The CBF [Centre pour le Bien-être des Femmes] Women's Health Centre in Burkina Faso was created between 2005 and 2007 by AIDOS, an Italian NGO fighting for Women's Rights in Developing Countries. The AIDOS project, financed by the Democratici di Sinistra Political Party and with a contribution from the European Commission, is just one of the group's international programs focused on contrasting the diffusion of Female Genital Mutilation [FGM].

The social/health-services program developed by AIDOS, together with its local partners was focused on providing the educational services, information and awareness about women's sexual and reproductive rights in Sector 27 of Ouagadougou, a peripheral urban area settled by the rural population. The social program called for the realization of a building complex capable of hosting a variety of activities in very harsh circumstances. The architectural project represents the response to this condition.

Completed in 15 months by a local builder, under the direct supervision of FAREstudio, the CBF is functionally and cost-effective answer to the needs expressed by AIDOS, while simultaneously and primarily representing a centre of aggregation and identity for the entire local community.

The technological and typological responses offered by the project, on par with its social programs, represents an innovative approach to traditional local building practices, presented as the natural formal expression of the changes and new approaches promoted by AIDOS.

The project privileges an integrated approach to interactions between built space and climatic-environmental conditions [building orientation and layout, control of resource consumption, the use of natural vegetation, the selection of building technologies], based on considerations of sustainability and appropriateness.

The project is based on the separation of the primary activities performed by the CBF into two distinct, though closely related buildings: a Training Centre dedicated to activities of awareness-building and the administration and management of the CBF, and a Consultancy Centre, used for medical visits, legal assistance and psychological counselling.

The two main buildings are set atop a single structural element: a raised platform that creates a true artificial plane that supports various buildings used for different purposes. The raising of the platform above the ground ensures hygienic/climatic conditions that are extraneous to local culture and practices of building [protection against dust, mud and humidity].

The two main buildings are protected against rainfall and, above all, direct sunlight, by a light, waterproof PVC recyclable velarium, supported by an independent structure of steel 'trees'. This sloping tarpaulin is part of a system that collects and stores rainwater, which is used to irrigate the garden.

The volumes that contain the various rooms are independent of the roof structure and freely placed atop the platform. They are articulated around a series of shaded and ventilated patios that ensure privacy from the exterior. The modular configuration of the structure allows for future expansion, preserving the general framework of the building.

The building walls are constructed using compressed drystacked clay bricks, BTC [briques en terre comprimée], made on site using a rough mixture of earth, cement and water. The bricks were baked in the hot sun, with no energy consumption, thus limiting the environmental impact of the material.

The choice to use these bricks is based on their temperature and humidity reduction characteristics, enhanced here by their protection against contact with water, perhaps the only serious limitation they pose.

The choice of using this technology represents the desire to introduce alternative and sustainable technologies within a context that is tied to standardized, though not always optimal building practices, and to the importance of importing foreign materials.

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