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MAKE DESIGN MATTER - September Talk - HKS Architects

  • HKS Architects Elsey House, 24-30 Great Titchfield Street London United Kingdom (map)
Article 25 Lecture 1 - HKS.jpg

Our first lecture as part of the MAKE DESIGN MATTER series will be delivered by HKS Architects on their recently completed Maternity Unit in Uganda.


Located in the Bukedea District, Kachumbala is an impoverished, rural area in eastern Uganda, home to 160,000 people with limited access to healthcare. The region’s existing maternity ward was part of an existing health facility built in the 1950s. Two cramped, windowless rooms served as a place to give birth and receive pre- and post-natal care – it also doubled as an office where healthcare providers did their paperwork and stored medical records.

Yet Kachumbala’s women were considered lucky to score a bed at the facility. The population in the region has grown, and the ward couldn’t accommodate nearly half of the expectant mothers who travel to the facility – most often long distances on the back of a motorcycle taxi – to give birth. Some women would have their baby and need to be moved out into the hallway to recover on a cement floor. Faced with a choice, many women decide to stay home and give birth without medical assistance.

As a result, the region suffers from a high infant and maternal mortality rate: an estimated 35-40 children out of every 1,000 don’t live to see their first birthday. Statistics indicate that sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most dangerous places on earth to be pregnant and give birth. Complications from childbirth, poor nutrition, infection, cross contamination, limited access to care, malaria and HIV/AIDS all impact health outcomes for mothers and their children in this part of the world.

To improve Kachumbala’s delivery of health and reduce infant and maternal deaths, HKS designed a sustainable, passive maternity facility. To build it, HKS partnered with Engineers for Overseas Development (EFOD), a Wales-based nonprofit, and Cyfle Building Skills, an organization that trains young apprentices in the building trades, who are charged with fundraising for their projects and making two-week site visits to train a local workforce and supervise construction.

MAKE DESIGN MATTER is a series of monthly inspirational talks for humanitarians.

Article 25, in partnership with the BRE Trust, are gathering together outstanding design professionals working to support the most vulnerable in societies across the developing world. These inspiring monthly panel discussions consider the pursuit of progressive, sustainable architecture which focus on the communities they serve.

Meet the architects and designers at the forefront of creative and positive change in building design for international development.