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Panzi General Referral Hospital is situated in the Ibanda Health Zone in Bukavu, South Kivu eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The hospital was founded in 1999 by Dr Mukwege, who has been awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Originally the hospital was planned for a capacity of 120 beds, but the number has escalated to 450. In addition to functioning as a general care facility, the hospital specialises in treating survivors of sexual violence and the reparation of vesical- vaginal- rectal fistulas. Based on a holistic person-centred model, the hospital covers medical, psychosocial, legal, and socioeconomic needs. The maternal and neonatal ward is a central part of the operations, with 3,000 to 3,500 childbirths per year.

In close dialogue with the hospital’s management and staff, White, the University of Gothenburg, WSP, Art of Life and Birth and Chalmers Technical University have developed a concept for a centre where women can give birth accompanied by close relatives in a safe and professional environment. The unit is the first stage of a long-term masterplan – also developed by the team – which encompasses the structural development of the hospital over the next 10-15 years.

The unit is planned on the basis of designing a healing architecture that will support the scientific and holistic, patient-centred care philosophy. White’s team visited the hospital, not only to survey the operational needs, but to also understand the site’s physical conditions, including the infrastructure of the existing buildings. This study visit provided the groundwork for verifying the project’s feasibility with respect to the site limitations while defining the building’s most important dimensions and overall appearance.

Developing a feasibility study of this type requires an expertise in designing healthcare buildings as well as experience working in an international context. White has considerable experience and knowledge designing sustainably; however, the specific conditions in Bukavu – including lack of water and electricity, limited access to building materials and a tight economy – provide extraordinary challenges. A fresh approach and new knowledge is required in order to build carbon neutral considering the climate, local materials and building production.

Earthquake-proof modular buildings ensure long-term sustainable development and simultaneously ease of maintenance. This resulting design also overcomes challenges and minimises the hospital’s climate impact; the roof is designed for optimising electricity and water supply, and bioclimatic design ensures a comfortable interior environment.

In addition to being linked to the latest knowledge within evidence-based design, the unit has been designed together with the hospital based on its working methods and needs. People’s desire for an attractive and welcoming environment, daylight, greenery, a private sphere and integrity is as strong in the Congo as in Swedish and Scandinavian projects; the feasibility study identified the need for a beautiful and welcoming environment with access to both private and social areas. Furthermore, abundant daylight, views over the natural environment and a comfortable indoor environment support the healing process. Navigating the hospital is also easy, which is true benefit for staff, patients and visitors alike.

During the work on the feasibility study, we have constantly been reminded that architecture can make a major difference. In the long-term, we are hoping to be able to create a model to build healing architecture in developing countries rationally, sustainably and in an economically smart way  − Cristiana Caira, Lead Architect.

The response to the feasibility study was very positive. White has been asked to continue working on the project in the next phase, which is followed by implementation in collaboration with local architects.

In the long-term, the combination of White’s expertise and local knowledge can be developed into a concept which can be used in other places with similar conditions. The overall vision of the project is to develop a unit that can become a model for other maternity- and neonatal care and health facilities in similar contexts in DRC, Africa and the world.


Panzi Hospital

  • Client: Panzi Hospital
  • Project Start/End: 2016-2017
  • Completed: 2017
  • City: Bukavu, DR Congo


  • Cristiana Caira - Lead Architect
  • Carl Molin
  • Saga Karlsson
  • Johan Lundin
  • Agnes Orstadius
  • Magnus Carlstrand
  • Ioannis Anagnostopoulos
  • Maria Glädt
  • Tania Sande Beiro
  • Alejandro Pacheco Diéguez
  • Marie-Claude Dubois
  • Rikard Sjöberg
  • Samuel Michaëlsson

Building Type