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Department of Architecture

Michael Ramage is part of the team that has built Rwanda’s first international stadium which will be the home of cricket in East Africa

Some 1,500 people –including Rwandan president Paul Kagame— are expected to attend the opening of the country’s first international standard stadium on Saturday 28 October. The event will feature a match between teams led by former England captain Michael Vaughan and South African record-breaking cricketer Herschelle Gibbs.

Although cricket is one of the fastest growing sports in Rwanda, the country has not had, until now, a pitch that was appropriate for hosting international matches. Rwandan teams could only compete internationally by travelling to other countries, while Rwandan fans were unable to watch their own teams in action on home ground.

The new cricket grounds in Gahanga, a southern suburb of the Rwandan capital, Kigali, are the result of a partnership between the Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation –a British charity—, the Rwanda Cricket Association, the Government of Rwanda, and architectural firm Light Earth Designs (LED), co-founded by Cambridge lecturer Dr. Michael Ramage.

One of the new grounds' most recognisable features is a pavilion consisting of three vaults constructed with 66,000 handmade tiles made by local workers using locally-sourced materials. The vaults’ shape mimics the parabolic geometry of a bouncing ball, and echoes Rwanda’s hilly topography.

These instantly recognisable vaults are the final product of research carried out by Dr. Ramage, from the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Natural Material Innovation, with Ms Ana Gatóo and Mr Wesam Al Asali. They build on Dr. Ramage’s earlier work alongside Dr. Matt DeJong (Cambridge) and Prof. John Ochsendorf (MIT).

Dr. Ramage and Prof. Ochsendorf had pioneered the pavilion’s characteristic soil tiled vaulting with architect Peter Rich of LED, at the Mapungubwe Interpretative Centre in South Africa. Adapted for the Rwandan context with Mr Tim Hall, LED co-founder and project lead, the vaults rise out of the cut soil banking formed as the pitch was levelled, integrating seamlessly with the landscape. The banking creates a natural amphitheatre with views over the pitch and the wetland valley beyond.

The project is part of a 5-year initiative led by Light Earth Designs to assist Rwandan development. It aims to encourage the use of home-grown, labour-intensive construction techniques, thereby lowering the carbon footprint of local building projects, enhancing local skills and helping to build the local economy.

Speaking ahead of the opening ceremony, Dr. Ramage said: “the Rwanda Cricket Stadium embodies not only the spirit of cricket in Rwanda, but also that of the men and women who crafted and constructed the building over the past few months.”