Bwindi Ecotourism Center
Located in the heavily forested mountains of Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a place rich in culture and biodiversity. Visitors from across the planet travel to this UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is home to half the world’s remaining population of endangered mountain gorillas. The Buhoma Visitor Center is planned as a gateway to the park and a bridge between the local community and the thousands who visit each year. The community design and master planning process was funded by USAID and coordinated by the US Forest Service, Solimar International, and the Uganda Wildlife Authority, involving many interviews, workshops, and meetings with stakeholders.
Built on a former cleared site containing a river and shared park boundary, the center will be a clear departure point for many activities in and around the park. The buildings that make up the center are light, open, simple structures made with local and regional materials. They are clustered to form comfortable indoor and outdoor spaces which intertwine with the landscape and facilitate the first and last stages of gorilla trekking. The terraced raingardens and amphitheater cascade down the hill as an expression of the cultivated landscape. Boardwalks traverse the site and reach out over the forested ravine to provide a tree canopy walk. Designed primarily with passive building strategies, the center buildings will provide natural light, fresh air, and clean water. They will produce their own energy, manage their own waste and water, and regenerate degraded habitat.