Grace McEniry, MArch I/MLA I 2019
Organization: MASS Design, Kigali, Rwanda
Sponsor: International Travel Community Service Fellowship
“Throughout my ten weeks in Kigali with MASS, I had the opportunity to work both on construction details and on a project’s schematic design. I felt lucky to get a small taste of the scope of what goes into building design at MASS. It demonstrated to me how important local communities and processes are to MASS’s projects even from the beginning, conceptual stages. From understanding the range of steel sections available to the differences in local brick quality, it was clear that materiality and locality played a large part in the work I was a part of this summer.
Another aspect that was important to my experience this summer was the community inside the MASS office. However unique the location and mission of MASS projects may be, the organization is beholden to similar deadlines, iterations, and design processes as those at other practices. Despite the usual design responsibilities, MASS still sets itself apart. My perception was that one of the most salient ways they do so is related to the community of the office environment.
To understand the essence of my experience this summer would be to spend time in the community MASS has created in Kigali. From the MASS annual retreat, to our ladies’ design team trip to Uganda, to weekly Kinyarwanda language lessons, to weekend adventures with coworkers to Zanzibar, working at MASS is inseparable from the experience of being a part of the MASS community. It seems to me that the strength of the firm’s designs are related to immersion into both the social life of the office and the culture of Kigali and Rwanda. Conscience, ingenuity, and charisma underpin the best of MASS’s designs, and those values are reflected in the community of the office environment, as well.
I had an incredibly valuable summer with MASS in Kigali. I can already understand that it will have a lasting effect on the way I continue to learn about architecture practice, social enterprise, and the way people engage with their communities.”