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75 | New Forms of Design Education for New Forms of Cities

Christian Benimana is a senior principal and managing director at Mass Design. He also is the founder of the African Design Center.

75 | New Forms of Design Education for New Forms of Cities

Growing up, Christian Benimana always dreamed of becoming an architect. Unfortunately, there were no design schools in his home country of Rwanda, so he applied and was accepted to Tongji University in Shanghai, China. Not letting his inability to speak Mandarin stand in his way, he spent a year gaining fluency before pursuing his degree in architecture. Upon returning to Rwanda, he joined MASS Design Group as a Design Fellow in 2010. He has taught at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology and chairs the education boards of the Rwandan Institute of Architects and the East African Institute of Architects. His goal is to develop the talent and potential of the next generation of African designers with socially-focused design principles. 

A year after announcing plans at the UN Solutions Summit in New York in 2015, Benimana launched the African Design Center (ADC), a field-based apprenticeship that is set to empower leaders who will design a more equitable, just, and sustainable world. Based in Kigali, Rwanda, the ADC functions as an intensive twenty-month fellowship that invests in the development of Africa’s most creative minds and operates as an innovation hub where they can learn and collaborate. For the inaugural class, over 75 applications with competitive portfolios and essays were submitted from 20 different countries. After a five-year pilot period, 100 fellows are expected to matriculate, and the program will shift to being a higher education institution, initially granting a Master in Design Studies degree.

At his work at MASS since his start in 2010, Benimana has been involved with design/build projects, development initiatives, and operational and administrative leadership. Today, he works as one of the firm’s Senior Principals and Managing Directors.

Christian has been listed among 10 architects and designers that are championing Afrofuturism and 2017 Quartz Africa Innovators. He has authored articles and book chapters including, Re-Thinking the Future of African Cities in The African Perspective Magazine and Creating Design Leaders: The African Design Centre in Public Interest Design Education Guidebook.


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2018 is "Alright With Me" by Reggie Young from his album "Young Street." The break music is "Yearning" by John-Angus MacDonald from the album "Song For Africa: Rwanda: Rises Up!"