The conservation campus blends beautifully with the surrounding landscape

The recently completed Ellen DeGeneres campus of the MASS Design Group’s Dian Fossey Gorilla Trust is designed to disappear into the existing lush volcanic landscape. Located in the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda, the new campus has set a new standard for environmental conservation and responsible design, while respecting the surrounding environment.

The new purpose-built campus represents a US$15 million investment in conservation and education in Africa. The project was created using local labor and materials to reduce the ecological footprint of the structure, while creating a beautiful reforested landscape, designed with the goal of supporting education and economic return for the local community.

“From the outset, the mission of this project has been to create a space for engaging multiple conservation stakeholders – students, scientists, tourists, conservation partners and community members – to advance our collective goal of saving gorillas and, on a larger scale, the planet,” said Dr. Tara Stoinsky, President and Director of Scientific Affairs. to Fossey Trust.” Campus beauty lifts people’s thinking about conservation, and helps them realize how important conservation is. This transformation is not only important to the Fossey Trust, but to the region and the world.”

The campus consists of three main buildings, accommodations for resident students and researchers

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The design of the new campus draws inspiration from the original camp site of Dian Fossey, which took refuge amid the woods at the Karisoke Research Center more than 50 years ago, and consists of three main buildings, as well as accommodation for resident students and researchers. Locally sourced volcanic stone was used to construct the outer walls, cladding, and gravel of driveways.

The project involved the cultivation of more than 250,000 native plants, along with creating a series of green roofs that blend seamlessly with the surrounding volcanic landscape, giving the impression that the campus is fading into the ground. A series of garden paths weave in and out the interior spaces, adjoining them with a series of sheltered patios and outdoor spaces. This interaction between indoor and outdoor spaces helps maximize natural airflow and sunlight into the buildings, while also allowing views of the volcanic ocean.

Rainwater is collected from the green roofs of campus buildings for reuse, and naturally treated within the built wetland, which consists of a series of ponds located below the conservation gallery. Here the water is naturally filtered and cleaned before it is absorbed back into the ground. This unique system is the first of its kind in Rwanda, and is gravity fed, reducing its total energy consumption.

The project was built using local labor and materials to reduce the footprint of the structure, while creating a beautiful reforested landscape

The project was built using local labor and materials to reduce the footprint of the structure, while creating a beautiful reforested landscape

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“Our partnership with Fossey Fund is in line with our sustainability goals from the very beginning of the design and construction process,” said Theophil Oiseau, Director of Design at MASS. “We’ve learned from each other’s perspectives on conservation and sharing, which has resulted in a beautiful campus design to support the local community and the sustainability of our ecosystem.”

Founded by American primatologist and conservationist Dr. Dian Fossey, the Digit Fund (now the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund) was established in 1978 to raise money for anti-poaching patrols after the death of a favorite namesake gorilla at the hands of poachers. It is now one of the largest and longest running organization in the world dedicated to gorilla conservation. The new campus will become a major training facility for young African scientists in the field of conservation.

Source: MASS Design Group

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