Architecture & Art Direction - Paris & Kigali

Bumbogo - Toponymic Urban Design

This project was awarded 2nd Price for the innovation towards landscape and urban planning approach in the context of an African city by the Experimental Urban Area for Africa competition sponsorized by the Fondazione Banco di Sicilia.


Rwanda, landlocked in the great lakes region, is marked by a hilly landscape all over the country. As one of the first constituted country in Africa, Rwanda has a prolific cultural heritage. This heritage is a pride and is just waiting to grow in the arising society.

Kigali was founded in 1907. It is after the independence, when the government decided to make the city the capital in 1962 that Kigali started to grow. The population doubled from 1996 to 2008, at an 8% rate compare to the national growth of 4%.



The site is Bumbogo, an hill located in Gasabo district at the fringe of Kigali. The district is expected to accommodate most of the growth of Kigali.

The urban population growth rate in Africa is the fastest one in the world. This growth Urban Planing shouldn’t be just about numbers. Although it’s a fact that Africa is in need of infrastructures that are currently lacking, urban development cannot always be quantified. It is about reflecting culture, history and creating a sense of belonging.

Africa needs to develop it own urban forms, based on each component of its culture; one that is turned towards the future and responds to people’s needs without denying its African roots. Importing solutions from the West and from Asia is a not the solution.

name Bumbogo
program Urban Planning
location Kigali, Rwanda

team : a.legrand , g.sardin

awards 2nd Price / Experimental Urban Area for Africa

Africa needs to develop it own urban forms, based on its cultures. Copy-and-pasting solutions from the West or from Asia is not the solution.



Urban planers might see Africa, as a blank space. A space where  they have to build city from scratch, where they have to teach people how to be urbanites. Africa is quite the opposite.The continent has an amazing and complex patchwork of cultures. All those cultures should be the starting point of any urban design within the continent, while at the same time understanding and taking into account the global real-estate economy.

Our solution is new framework, respecting local way of life, answering the need for infrastructure and allowing international investment.

In order to develop such site-specific urban design , many ways can be taken. The lack of written sources could be seen as an obstacle, but culture is not only made of writings. Landscape, climate, oral traditions & craftsmanship have shaped today’s society.  In Rwanda, the local culture and the landscape are bound together.


Urban design in Rwanda should encourage, frame urban vistas for all.

Intelligent Landscape 

We shouldn’t forget about the years of practical knowledge or family histories that divided the land and dug paths. The point isn’t to freeze this history into heritage, but to keep in mind that humanity has shaped its environment, and to consider using this millenarian knowledge in order to add depth to urban fabric as other urban civilization have done before.

existing plots and paths

existing plots and paths

Rwanda, the land of the thousand vistas

Rwanda means the infinite land. The country is an unstoppable succession of hills dividing and uniting the landscape. Because the horizon line is cut by the hill-line, a sense of closeness, of belonging to one place developed here; but since the landscape is repeated, people also feel they belong to something larger. This duality has deeply shaped the Rwandan sense of place and appropriation.

Maximising views by taking the surroundings landscape into consideration

Maximising views by taking the surroundings landscape into consideration

Kigali means wide view. From Mount Kigali one can see the entire country, as far as Lake Kivu. Kigali means a point of view where you have many vistas. 

The toponymy of Rwanda and Kigali are both as much descriptive as programmatic. Urban design in Rwanda should encourage, frame urban vistas for all.


Bumbogo, a new urban matrix

Bumbogo will set a new matrix for future development and stratification. It will be  an ambitious plan in terms of environmental sustainability and forward thinking urban morphology. It doesn’t create a tabula rasa condition. It blends culture and advanced technologies to produce an up-to-date urban fabric. The smallest administrative subdivision, umudugudu, will be used as a framework. Each of them will become independent on a basic level: water, educations, health, marketplaces, ...

Bumbogo Masterplan

Bumbogo Masterplan

Fair Urban Design 


Producing urban space costs money. In order to keep a social balance, a private-public cooperative structure will be created. The cooperative will build the roads, water and waste collecting systems. Money making programs (high end real estate, IT centers, office space) will finance the structure.

Earnings will be used to found less profitable programs: affordable housings, water filtration systems, schools or green spaces. The cooperative will be the heart of the neighbourhood, ensuring the smooth functioning and redistribution system.

Taking advantage of Topography 

In Rwanda, topography is most often seen as an obstacle. Development are not taking advantage of the landscape, creating unfitted, non-contextual urban forms.Our solution maximize the views and frame urban spaces for all.

Taking advantage of topography

Taking advantage of topography

Taking advantage of Topography

Taking advantage of Topography


Ultra affordable Housing

Africa is at the verge of a major economic and social uplift. Rwanda GPD will double in 10 years. Planning has to respond to current needs, but also to be relevant for a wealthier and more developed Africa. That’s why affordable housing for the poorest has to be able to evolve as comfort standards evolve.  

Ultra affordable housing typology

Ultra affordable housing typology

Wetland - Agriculture Parks

Wetlands are a specific landscape. They should be preserved by water filtration and cautious human activities within a 20m range. All these technical infrastructures should participate into the making of Bumbogo. Water filtration pools will be planed as promenades inviting people to discover the richness of viewpoints on the urban fabric and the larger landscape.
Agriculture should be preserved. But to integrate with urbanity, this space should be transformed into a park-like area with paths that will connect Bumbogo to its surroundings via soft transportation. 



How can a site-specific process be replicable?  Unlike a fixed master plan that can only be copied and pasted, this culturally rooted matrix proposes a process that can be duplicated and will produce new forms, new typologies throughout Africa.

We propose a pragmatic utopia, where imagination, discovery and culture produce urbanity for tomorrow, close to its heritage and its roots.


Local Centre with Marketplace, infrastructure and services

Local Centre with Marketplace, infrastructure and services