On 20 September, the Ugandan authorities announced an outbreak of Ebola in Mubende district.
Building work at our new Centre of Excellence in Paediatric Surgery in Entebbe, on the banks of Lake Victoria, continues at a cracking pace. After two and a half years of research, design, innovation and dedication, the outer structures are complete. The electrical and plumbing systems will soon be finished too, after which we will set out the criteria for patient admission and the specific kinds of surgery to be provided at the Centre.
We will install all the necessary biomedical equipment and choose local staff to work beside our international team at the hospital, so that we are ready to begin providing medical services.
Sustainability and Humanity: The Pillars of our Project
This ambitious project rests on two principles, or pillars: being sustainable and putting patients at the centre of everything. At no point during construction have our respect for and commitment to these pillars ever wavered.
Just look at the walls, built of rammed earth, an ancient building technique chosen to make the most of the land on which the building sits, a stone’s throw from the banks of Lake Victoria. Or the 2,600 photovoltaic panels covering the facility and providing much of its energy. It all shows how our ambition has translated into a highly functional hospital, designed throughout with the well-being of its patients in mind.
This marriage of sustainable design choices and humanity profits every single part of the building.
With every step through the building site, you get an ever-clearer impression that this is not just a hospital. It is a place for dialogue, for understanding the children who will be treated here.
The hospital sits within a large park. Green spaces like this are an important feature of all EMERGENCY’s projects, as our plant nursery, also currently under construction, shows.
We want the patients who will call the facility home to feel safe and happy in its surroundings.
Within the hospital’s walls, we have built a greenhouse for growing various tree species and making the garden at the facility more colourful. These trees are in some way our first patients here, and we will care for them just as we will every child who arrives in future.
Everyone who comes to our hospital will realise that it is not just a building but a place that speaks to people and conveys emotion, that lets them see past their suffering. This is how we put our principle of quality into practice; we put people at the centre of everything, both when designing physical spaces and throughout treatment.
“Sustainability and humanity must always be wedded. Sustainability is no longer an option nowadays. It has to be the starting point for everything. Sustainability and quality strengthen humanitarian work and are an intrinsic part of it.”
Raul Pantaleo, architect at Studio TAMassociati
The head of Renzo Piano Building Workshop’s (RPBW) project at EMERGENCY’s hospital in Uganda has this to say about the 300 trees brightening up its surroundings:
“All the windows in the hospital rooms look onto the garden. The trees are a metaphor for the healing process because they grow upwards. They stand on their own two feet because they’re healthy, unlike someone who is suffering and has to stay lying down.”
Giorgio Grandi, Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW)
Just like plants, carefully chosen colours will be of aid to healing and well-being at the Paediatric Centre. Its corridors are bathed in natural light, so patients can see day turn into night with every cloud that passes. Outside there will be play areas for the young patients and their relatives.
This is an ambitious feat, blending architectural and medical principles, with a single message: peace.
If the hospital is to live up to this message, the design must above all be an active process, involving a lot of people all working towards the same goal. The support and professional synergy of Renzo Piano, one of the greatest architects alive, and his RPBW have transformed this from an ordinary hospital into a true work of art.
“When Gino Strada called Renzo Piano to ask him to design this hospital with EMERGENCY, I felt a shiver right down my spine. Then, when I was sitting next to Renzo Piano at his studio in Genoa and he said the hospital walls would be made of earth, I felt another shiver. After years of design, tests, trips and changes, I’m seeing the project unfold before my eyes and I can finally say the challenge is over.”
Roberto Crestan, EMERGENCY Building Division
We have been determined to practise our idea of treatment for the last 25 years, and this is what makes our crucial message to everyone in Uganda credible. Building a centre of excellence in Africa, to the same standards you would find in Europe, is possible.
We showed the same determination in Uganda that we showed when helping expand the ANME Programme (African Network of Medical Excellence), formed more than 10 years ago to build medical centres of excellence across the continent and strengthen its healthcare systems. The facility in Entebbe will join the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery in the network.
Every one of our projects offers excellence, free of charge and available to all. Regardless of where we are, we never forget these principles, because they are the pillars of what we do. They are the foundation on which we build our humanitarian work, to ensure the right to treatment for as many people as possible.