Labour Ward in Norther Uganda_ A Locally Rooted Human Centered Approach

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Labour Ward in Norther Uganda_ A Locally Rooted Human Centered Approach

Mariana Rantanen



This thesis work proposes a design for a maternity ward in the North of Uganda, a low-resource setting challenged by socio-economic and political instability, deteriorated health infrastructure, lack of staff and resources, low accessibility to health services and erosion of medical ethics. The proposal is an addition to an existing medical centre located in Kitgum, Uganda. The region is seeing a rapid growth in population and in need of Maternal and Child Health Facilities to accommodate that growth and help reduce the high maternal and neonatal mortality rates.

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The architectural aim of this thesis is to design a labour ward that spatially supports the woman and the companion’s journey through the facility, from admission to discharge, with a dominant focus on circulation and also local materials and techniques. The wider societal aim is to shift privacy standards of contemporary facilities towards a more personal and intimate experience, through allowing the presence of a companion in all stages of the process.

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Who influences you graphically?

I do not tend to have constant and direct influences graphically. Inspiration comes to me through mutual sharing of ideas and projects with friends and people close to me who’s opinions are important. Photography, nature, paintings, personal experiences, all of it can play a part.

Mies’ compositions impress me since my early years of architecture school, for being so sober and naked, often from stiff angles, but still portraying so beautifully an atmosphere or sentiment. Also Dogma, for instance. However I think the younger generation of architects are more relaxed about representation but more keen on transmitting feelings or a particular spirit. The architecture is the set, the stage of the actions, and I think picturing well those actions is just as important.

It took me some time to be able to purely translate the atmosphere I had in my head. Despite my inspirations and references, I often start without knowing what exactly is going to happen. Experimenting is a large part of the process.

What is the effect and purpose of the white background? How does the escaping of the shadows within this define it as a space itself within the image?

The white background works as a frame, which is inherently part of the view so that however it is displayed, the frame is always there and is always the same. It brings distance, in order to help offset an imaginary reality.

The enhancement of the shadows is a way to emphasise the harsh sun of an East African climate and how the building itself (and the nature) responds to that condition. Shade is very important, culturally, in these contexts, and I wanted to give more importance to that. Here, shade is also space – to cool down, to talk, to wait, to meet… Whether it is natural or built.

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What defined the specific views?

All the views are equally important in the project and I chose to develop spaces that were socially active in the building. They are either meeting points close to the entrance, or a shaded area where the courtyard is the main view, or an interior space which is crucial in the journey of the building’s users. Choosing the right views helps me in portraying the journey.

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What is your take on the axonometric as the most complete form of drawing?

As of it being the most complete form of drawing depends on the project which is being illustrated.

In this case it allows not only for the building’s circulation to be evident – because it is the most distinct feature of this project – but also for the volumes to gain expression. It also helps to show the interstitial spaces and outdoor areas, and how these bind the two buildings together. The explosion of the roof displays the material layers, which are very significant in their simplicity.



Mariana Rantanen is a young architect with origins both from Portugal and Finland. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Lisbon and her Master’s in Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland, where she is currently based. Her Master’s thesis is part of a journey to assist and develop projects in low resource settings, such as the Philippines, Zanzibar and Uganda, that started while still in Aalto University. Mariana’s cultural, educational and architectural background drive her to work on different scales, always pursuing her interest in natural as well as local materials and influences.


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