RPBW’s Children’s Surgical Hospital for Emergency in Entebbe

TAMassociati, Renzo Piano, RPBW,

Marcello Bonfanti,

Entebbe, Uganda,


A "scandalously beautiful hospital" is how the late Italian surgeon and philanthropist Gino Strada, who passed away in the summer of 2021, described the request he submitted to architect Renzo Piano for the design of a new medical facility in Uganda: the Children’s Surgical Hospital in Entebbe, a virtuous example of good architecture, cooperation and co-design that opened in April 2021.

RPBW’s Children’s Surgical Hospital for Emergency in Entebbe

The exhibition that closes on January 10 at Emergency’s office in the Giudecca, in Venice, is entitled "Scandalosamente bello. Il Centro di chirurgia pediatrica di EMERGENCY in Uganda" (Scandalously beautiful. EMERGENCY’s Children’s Surgical Hospital in Uganda) and tells the story of the design, construction and initial months of operation of the new children’s hospital designed for the Italian non-profit organisation Emergency by architect Renzo Piano and his workshop. The title of the exhibition comes from the words Gino Strada, the Italian surgeon and philanthropist who co-founded Emergency, who passed away in the summer of 2021, used to sum up the request he put to Renzo Piano for the new children’s hospital.
The new hospital stands on the shore of Lake Victoria in Entebbe, Uganda, at an altitude of 1,200 metres, and it is scandalously beautiful because, as Gino Strada explained, it’s scandalous to respond to the logic of “better than nothing” by practicing true equality. When we talk about hospital projects in Africa, according to the Italian doctor, "we must bring them something they don’t even dare to dream of, something that is just what we would want for ourselves”.

This vision is shared by architect Renzo Piano, who worked on the project pro bono with his workshop, RPBW, in partnership with studio TAMassociati and the Building Division of Emergency. A group of six companies also participated in the programme, partners in the Theatro network (Thema, Schüco Italia, Resstende, Pellinindustrie, AGC and Schneider Electric), working together to achieve the performance and practicality the architects and the client aimed to achieve.
The Children’s Surgical Hospital in Entebbe offers a virtuous example of good architecture and cooperation, a scandalously beautiful hospital not only for the way it looks but because it is made using sustainable materials and techniques, because it fits harmoniously into the natural setting of Lake Victoria, and because it brings top-quality free healthcare to Africa. The building covers 9,700 square metres, with 3 operating theatres and 72 beds, a play area and a guesthouse for patients and their families. The U-shaped construction is surrounded by a big park, a feature shared by all Emergency hospitals, as the presence of greenery is considered an integral part of the reception and treatment of patients. A lightweight structure of steel and glass supports a steel and zinc-titanium roof and is enclosed between rammed earth outer walls. This traditional technique uses raw earth, the thermal inertia of which ensures constant temperature and humidity conditions inside. Plus the material complies with the principles of the circular economy and sustainability, because the red clay used in the walls was excavated to dig the hospital’s foundations. The hospital’s environmental footprint is also kept low by a series of 2500 photovoltaic panels on the roof, helping to supply the energy the children’s hospital requires.
Entebbe Children’s Hospital is part of ANME, Emergency’s project for setting up a network offering top-quality medical care in Africa, which also includes Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery, opened in 2007 in Sudan.

(Agnese Bifulco)

Images courtesy of Emergency and Theatro, photo by Marcello Bonfanti

Project Name: Entebbe Children's Surgical Hospital
Client: Emergency NGO
Location: Entebbe, Uganda
Design: Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Studio TAMassociati
Design Team:
RPBW: G. Grandi (partner in charge), P. Carrera, A. Peschiera, D. Piano, Z. Sawaya e D. Ardant; F. Cappellini, I. Corsaro, D. Lange, F. Terranova (models)
TAMassociati: R. Pantaleo, M. Lepore, S. Sfriso, V. Milan, L. Candelpergher, M. Gerardi
EMERGENCY Building Division: Roberto Crestan, Carlo Maisano

Consultants: Milan Ingegneria (structure); Prisma Engineering (MEP); Studio Giorgetta (landscaping); GAE Engineering (fire consultant)

Photos: Marcello Bonfanti