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Hollmén Reuter Sandman Architects’ focus is on both environmental and aesthetic sustainability. Environmental sustainability is achieved by using local, recycled and renewable materials as much as possible and designing site specifically according to the local climate. The aesthetic sustainability is born from the functionality, the culture, how the building fits into the environment, how the plan follows the local space hierarchy.

In 2007 the group founded a non-governmental organisation named Ukumbi, focusing on the work in developing countries. The mission is to offer architectural services for communities in need. Architecture can be a powerful way of mitigating poverty and empower the community and increase its self-esteem.

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Ukumbi ngo

Using architecture to mitigate poverty

Ukumbi ry is a Finnish non-governmental organisation established in 2007 by three Finnish architects. Saija Hollmén, Jenni Reuter and Helena Sandman have all extensive experience of development cooperation projects in several African countries. In the course of their work they realised that culturally knowledgeable and skilfully designed architecture is a tool that can be used to improve the living conditions of communities and to mitigate poverty.

The mission of Ukumbi is to offer architectural planning and design for underprivileged groups. Often such groups include women, children or young people whose opportunities for participation in society are limited. Improving the status of women in particular has proved to be an efficient way of supporting community development. Participatory planning empowers its target groups to influence the development of their own environment, and the sense of proprietorship this creates is an important precondition for the successful completion of development projects.

In addition to cultural sustainability, Ukumbi also seeks to create ecologically sustainable architecture. The use of renewable energy sources, recycling, the utilisation of local materials and local skills are among the pillars of Ukumbi’s planning philosophy.

Ukumbi is a Swahili word that denotes a public meeting place or forum. 

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