Grain News

Texas A&M Architecture Students Collaborate With Borlaug Institute to Develop Health, Training, and Ag Facility For Southern Sudan

Date Posted: April 27, 2011

College Station—Texas A&M University System’s College of Architecture and Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture have collaborated to produce designs for a new multi-purpose health, training and agriculture facility for southern Sudan.

“The Rehab Nova-International multipurpose facility is designed to be built in three phases,” said George J. Mann, AIA, a professor of architecture at the college who worked with the students in developing their designs.

“The facility would include land for agriculture, livestock, boarding houses, guest houses, labs, classrooms, and facilities for physical rehabilitation, occupational therapy and vocational rehabilitation.”

Mann said the facility also would have offices and a health clinic to help orphans, women and the physically disabled in the rural Sudanese communities of Birka and Bor.

Designs for the facility were developed by architecture students after doing extensive research on Sudanese culture, climate, materials and methods of construction, and incorporating these elements into their designs.

Five students – three men and two women – participated in the architectural “studio” with each developing their own individual design for the facility in one of the designated communities.

Four of the studio students are from Texas — Cibolo, Duncanville, Edinburg and Plano – and one is from Prishtina, Kosovo.

Student designs included features such as solar collectors, windmills for power and energy and water collectors that would allow the facility to be self-sustaining.

“The name Rehab Nova was chosen to reflect the facility’s focus in rehabilitation, as well for the project bringing new hope to those who might benefit from using it,” said Jonathan Spielmann, 21, a fourth-year undergraduate student in the College of Architecture.

“I wanted to make the facility self-sustaining so it could take care of its own needs, but so it also might later fulfill the needs of others – especially women, children and the handicapped — in other parts of the Sudan.”

Spielmann said while the students worked separately on their designs, they also supported one another and shared each other’s concepts and considerations under Mann’s mentorship.

“The design I came up with was based on a ‘sandbag’ design technique that would allow the use of local materials to build it, including its signature arches and domes,” Spielmann said.

“I wanted to design something that would be relatively easy to construct without having to import materials.”

Students participating in the studio unveiled designs earlier this year at the Borlaug Institute and more recently they and architecture college staff and faculty presented the results of this semester-long research and design project to Dr. Ed Price, director of the Borlaug Institute.

“I was impressed with the depth and extent of work by these students in developing their designs for the Rehab Nova facility,” said Price.

“They not only incorporated remarkable architectural features in their designs, they incorporated a true understanding of the people and culture of southern Sudan and of the needs of those people in and beyond the communities of Birka and Bor.”

"Originally the students were to have worked in another project during the second half of the semester,” said Mann "but they became so interested in the project that they unanimously requested to develop and refine it during the remainder of the semester.”

Along with Mann, who holds the Skaggs-Sprague Endowed Chair of Health Facilities Design, students also received input from Borlaug Institute personnel and others toward developing the facility design.

Other project participants included Mustafa Sharif, a native of Sudan pursuing a doctorate in urban and regional sciences in the College of Architecture, and Keith Cole, the Borlaug Institute’s assistant director of administration and finance.

The Borlaug Institute provides researchers, policymakers and university faculty from developing countries the ability to strengthen sustainable agricultural practices through scientific training and collaborative research opportunities, according to institute administrators.

The institute, named after Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the father of the Green Revolution, currently leads or participates in dozens of international agriculture projects in developing countries worldwide.

“My dream for this project is that, once we have finished design work, we will have a document and a physical product we can present to donors so we can get the funding needed to build such a facility,” Sharif said.

“This facility would contribute to a solution by bringing different health, training and agriculture services under the same umbrella to some of the more disadvantaged people in southern Sudan.”

Cole noted that some of the leading causes of death in the Sudan are AIDS, malaria and malnutrition, along with other diseases that might be prevented with proper nutrition and health care.

He added that he hopes these two new facilities, when they come to fruition, “will in some small part assist in the stability and development of Southern Sudan which is slated to officially become world’s newest country on July 9 as a result of a January 2011 referendum.”

“The need for a multipurpose facility of this nature in the southern Sudan is vital,” he said.

“Improvements in Sudan’s agriculture and health have been identified by the international community as top priorities for improving the quality of life and bringing greater stability to that area.

"A facility like this would help address these issues and provide badly needed rehabilitation care and equipment as well as the agricultural research, technology and knowledge needed to benefit inhabitants of this region.”

For more information on the project, contact Mann at 979-845-7856 or

To see student designs for the facility, go to:

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