2014 Place Design: The Masoro Village Project

The Masoro Village Project from GA Collaborative is a recipient of the 2014 Place Design Award.


Launched in 1996, the Imidugudu program, which relocates rural and low-income settlement dwellers into planned housing developments, has been reshaping both urban and rural landscape in Rwanda. Under this program, current landowners can trade their property for housing plots, leaving many renters to search outside cities and villages for shelter.


GA Collaborative, a nonprofit design organization comprised of practitioners and educators has been researching viable housing models for Rwanda. At the core of GA Collaborative’s mission is that all have the right to benefit from design. In 2008, GA Collaborative initiated the Masoro Village Project to bring design thinking to Masoro in the form of new housing. The first house built in 2013 used low-impact building materials, engaged both skilled and unskilled local labor, and was a vehicle to test and teach building techniques new to the country.


Committed to reduce importation of materials, GA Collaborative introduced EarthBag construction, the first application of its kind in Rwanda. EarthBags, originally developed as a military bunker construction technique, are woven polypropylene bags packed with excavated earth and used to form stable load-bearing walls. GA Collaborative invited an EarthBag building expert to conduct a month-long workshop. GA Collaborative also worked with villagers to leverage local weaving techniques to create design solutions at an architectural scale. Beyond generating visual separations between front terrace, kitchen and bath, the woven screens break down many of the gender roles associated with building construction in Rwanda.




To sustain the newly gained knowledge within the country, GA Collaborative worked closely with local architecture students from the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology who were involved with the project at each stage, working side-by-side with the villagers. The project has had wide support throughout Masoro where villagers are now planning additional EarthBag buildings and teaching others these new construction skills. 


Name and Location:
The Masoro Village Project
Masoro Sector, Rulindo District, Northern Province, Rwanda


S 01° 49’ 52”
E 30° 03’ 31”


Architectural Design Firm:
GA Collaborative


Design Team:

  • Yutaka Sho, principal designer and construction manager, GA Collaborative
  • James Setzler, designer and construction manager, GA Collaborative
  • Michael Beaman, designer and graphics, GA Collaborative
  • Zaneta Hong, designer and graphics, GA Collaborative

Rwandan Architecture Students from the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST):

  • Theophile Uwayezu
  • Doreen Ingabire
  • Rene Isabane
  • Patrice Ndababonye

Structural Consultant:
Dr. Johnny Anderton, Eternally Solar, South Africa


Construction Supervision:

  • Riaan Hough, EarthKaya, South Africa
  • GA Collaborative
  • KIST Architecture Students

Solar Lamps Consultant + Provider:
Great Lakes Energy, Rwanda


Compacted Earthen Floor Consultant + Provider:
Earthenable, USA


People of Masoro Sector, Association Dushyigikirane


Built Area:
86 m² (gross)


Design Phase:
November 2011 – June 2013


Construction Phase:
June 2013 – September 2013