The Bartlett School of Architecture


Bartlett Associate Professor Designs New Rwandan Hospital

20 January 2022

Julia Backhaus' practice, Flux Architects, has designed a new teaching hospital, which will provide free, state-of-the-art cardiac care to Rwandan residents.

Aerial view, Magdi Yacoub Heart Care Centre, Rwanda

Julia Backhaus visited Kigali, Rwanda earlier this month for the laying of the cornerstone of the Magdi Yacoub Heart Centre, designed by her practice Flux Architects, marking the start of construction. The new cardiac teaching hospital, inspired by the Aswan Heart Centre in south Egypt, will be the first of its kind in the Sub-Sarahan region. The region is one of the worst-affected parts of the world for cardiovascular diseases, which are the number one cause of death worldwide.

A small number of cardiologists are presently available to serve Rwanda’s 13 million-strong population. The 12,000 sqm teaching hospital will provide cutting-edge, free of charge medical care to local communities, and will spur the creation of a biomedical and innovation knowledge base, training a generation of young Rwandan doctors, nurses, scientists and technicians to ensure sustainability in the region.

Flux Architects produced the design proposal for the project and developed the project up to RIBA stage 3, working closely with the Magdi Yacoub Heart Foundation, the Chain of Hope UK and Robin Aid as well as British and German design consultants. Egyptian consulting firm ECG developed the tender design documents and are now the lead consultant, while Flux remains the artistic lead for the project, and Julia is the client representative to the Foundation. Orascom Construction Industries were appointed as the main contractor and EEacon is the local Architect of Record.

To help bring the project to life, Julia co-founded a local NGO, Heart Care and Research Foundation (HCRFR), with renowned Egyptian-British surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub & Dr William Wyns, who is Science Foundation Ireland Professor in Interventional Cardiology at the National University of Ireland Galway. The Foundation raised the money to cover the cost of the project, and will own and operate the hospital. Their board of trustees combines Western knowledge with local expertise, to deliver tailored and specialised care to patients. They have also secured the hospital’s first five years of running costs, and training of local staff has begun already in collaboration with the University of Rwanda.

This mission led project brings hope to a region in urgent need for cardiac services, free of charge. It’s a multidisciplinary project, that once it is built will include surgery, cardiac care, medical training and research. Our architectural ambition is to be a beacon of how the consequences of architecture can facilitate healing, empower communities and create tangible social value. I think there is great optimism in the suggestion that care, in combination with design, can promote justice and human dignity."

- Julia Backhaus

Julia is Associate Professor in Architecture at The Bartlett, and has been co-Director of the Architecture MArch (ARB/RIBA Part 2) programme for ten years. She was recently appointed as Director of Enterprise at The Bartlett and will take up the post later this month.

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