• Woldaya Maternity Centre /Xavier Vilalta Architects (XVA)

Architects: Xavier Vilalta Architects (XVA)  
Location: Woldya,  Ethiopia
Project Team: Maria Rosaria Favoino (Project Leader),Luiza Kostecka, Anna Kyskova
Interior Décor: Xavier Vilalta
Project Year: 2013

Located in Woldya, a town in the Amhara region in northeast Ethiopia, the new maternity care center is placed at the entrance of the Woldya hospital becoming a new gathering area for future mothers, It’s a public space serving the social role of bringing together the mothers but most important provides the ever important functions of a maternity. It is divided in two areas that share an entrance space: the maternity unit and the mothers waiting area. The first one is the functional and operational medical space and the second, a temporary hostel for upcoming patients that need a place to stay before they enter in the final stage of their pregnancy.

The hospital at large posed a major challenge of fitting in a design into a reach landscape. The town elevation is 2112 m above sea level and has a favourable climate with temperatures that range 12 to 27 ºC – and regular precipitation intensity during the whole year. Woldya is surrounded by a beautiful landscape of mountains and a large abundance of greenery. 

The maternity unit is composed of 3 rectangular concrete volumes that are connected by a central corridor. The 3 volumes are the different areas of the maternity unit: Reception, Patient and Operation areas. These are separated from each other to bring light inside the main circulation and connected with the glass corridor. Is a simple and elegant design that denotes from both the local architecture and modern language. However the rift between the two is well managed and the composition achieved reflects the direction that functional Architecture in Africa can undertake.

Fractal designs appear frequently in cultural artifacts across the continent of Africa. They are found in textiles, architecture, sculpture, village layout, etc. Continent wide studies conclude that the high frequency of the use of fractals in Africa is by both conscious and unconscious design. The maternity unit construction system and sustainability strategies are a combination of traditional solutions, available resources and engineering systems that improve the building’s performance. The structure of the maternity is based on concrete brick walls and slabs and on wood pillars and rattan panels on the mothers’ home. These incorporate insulation and the main services. All the rooms of the maternity have natural ventilation considering the favourable climate of the region. The windows of the different rooms are built with wood and protected from intrusion with a common metal frame shaped with a traditional Ethiopian pattern. Electricity is generated with photovoltaic panels to make the building independent from the grid and also serve the demands of the mothers waiting home. A network of water tanks is placed on the roof to collect the rain water. This water is heated naturally by the sun and its position also provides pressure to the internal pipes.

The mothers waiting area is inspired by the tukuls, the traditional Ethiopian huts and it is composed by circular volumes connected by paths. Like a big house for new mothers, it has a day area with an open air living room, the veranda, and a kitchen and a night area with 5 rooms and toilets. It celebration of an African setting with passive strategies and tackling one of the major drawbacks in the continent.

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