$13m conservation hub spearheaded by Ellen DeGeneres opens in Rwanda

Image’s courtesy of Iwan Baan/Mass Design Group
A $13.4m campus aimed at continuing the work of American primatologist Dian Fossey has opened in Rwanda.

The 5ha campus, which was partly funded by US comedian Ellen DeGeneres, consists of three buildings housing classrooms, laboratories, exhibitions, meeting space and student housing. It is located near the Volcanoes National Park on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It was designed by Boston architect MASS and used local labour and materials throughout its construction.

The campus design took inspiration from Fossey’s original tent in the forest at the Karisoke Research Centre, which she first pitched more than 50 years ago. From above, the buildings’ green roofs blend into the surrounding landscape.

DeGeneres said: “When I was a kid, I used to dream of coming here. Dian Fossey was my hero, and her dedication to gorillas changed the world. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has been here for over 50 years. Thanks to their work, the commitment of the Rwandan government and the efforts of many conservation groups here today, the mountain gorilla population has gone from 300 in the entire world to over 1,000.

“This campus is so important for gorillas, but it’s also more than that. It’s teaching schoolchildren about conservation. It’s educating a future generation of scientists. It’s a model for others to follow, from the sustainable architecture to the community’s involvement.”

In 2020, UK consultant Turner & Townsend won a contract to act as client’s representative and project manager for the campus.

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