From Realtà Mapei International n° 87 - 9/21/2021

Beauty and sustainability for Emergency’s new hospital in Uganda

Designed by Renzo Piano and completed in accordance with local building traditions, the new children’s surgical hospital has opened in Entebbe.

Location icon Entebbe

“I like to think of Africa as a kind of testing ground for the future and not just the scene of so much suffering and forgotten wars. Gino always asked me to design a “scandalously beautiful” hospital, because some people think it is scandalous to offer everybody beauty and excellence, particularly the less fortunate. In all African languages, most notably Swahili, the idea of beauty is always associated with the idea of goodness: there can be no beauty without goodness”. That is how Renzo Piano described the origins of the project he designed for a children's surgical hospital for Emergency in Uganda that opened on 21st April.

Built in Entebbe with the help of numerous Italian businesses, including the Mapei Group, the project was developed pro bono by the architect  Renzo Piano, RPBW (Renzo Piano Building Workshop), Studio TAMassociati, and Emergency's own Building Division.

Uganda is a country where the mortality rate for children under the age of five is 49 for every 1000 births. 30% of these deaths could be avoided if there was adequate surgical care. One of the first to join ANME (Africa’s high-quality health care network set up in 2010 by Emergency), Uganda realised years ago that it had to strengthen its paediatric surgery services. Emergency decided to open a paediatric surgery hospital in this country and the Ugandan government provided the land on which the complex is built free of charge and committed to helping it get built. It also covers 20% of the hospital’s annual running costs. This paediatric surgery centre actually triples the number of surgical beds available to children in Uganda.


The hospital is located along the banks of Lake Victoria and treats all children under the age of 18 free of charge. The centre covers an area of 9700 m² and provides the community with 3 operating rooms, 72, hospital beds, including 6 in intensive care and 16 in sub-intensive care, 6 clinics, a radiology unit, a laboratory with a blood bank, a CAT scanner, a pharmacy, accommodation for foreign patients, and an outdoor playground. Most of the energy is supplied by 2500 photovoltaic solar panels on the roof. The hospital is part of an elaborate landscape plan designed by Studio Franco and Simona Giorgetta, which focuses on the natural and sustainable side of the entire project. This means plenty of attention has been given to the gardens that form a natural environmental mitigation system, as well as contributing to the so-called “healing architecture”: a welcoming and well cared for setting has a positive impact on the patient healing process.




Right from the design phase, the hospital was intended to only have limited impact on the surrounding environment and local culture. That is why the architect, Renzo Piano, wanted to build in compliance with local building traditions, opting for the so-called pisé construction technique. This technique uses a compound made of soil, sand, gravel and a little bit of water to prevent cracking during the drying process.

The resulting paste is then compressed in wooden formworks. The clay provides notable heat inertia keeping the building’s temperature and humidity levels constant, but it cannot provide adequate mechanical resistance or sufficient resistance to rainfall.

The Mapei Group came to the project’s aid by sending its own technicians on-site. After sending some samples of material to Mapei’s R&D laboratories, special latest-generation binding agents were developed to make this technique more versatile and durable. Mapei’s help involved sending six containers of admixture to the building site from Italy, as well as formworks to shape the rammed earth. Applying a highly innovative technology to an ancient building technique made it possible to construct the hospital walls sustainably, guaranteeing versatility and durability. Using a material so widely available locally like clay also reduced the project’s environmental impact.             

As Mapei’s CEO, Veronica Squinzi, pointed out: “We are proud that our research, materials and technical support were able to contribute to this project that embodies many of the values Mapei believes in: hard work, excellence, sustainability and beauty. We hope this innovative solution can be used for building other local facilities to help the community to grow”.


Project data sheet

Yard clay structure
Location Entebbe, Africa
Subcategory HOSPITAL
Built in 2016
Opened in 2018
Application supply of innovative system for "pisè" technique clay construction
Start and finish date 2016/2018
Application Type New building

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