Christian Benimana, Founding Director

Christian Benimana dreamed of becoming an architect, but—in 2002—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.

When he returned to Rwanda in 2010, Christian joined MASS Design Group as a Global Health Corps Design Fellow. Five years later, he presented the idea for the African Design Centre at the UN Solutions Summit in New York.

His TED Talk, “The next generation of African architects and designers” has been viewed almost a million times, and MASS’s vision for the fellowship has been featured in venues like Design Indaba and the Public Interest Design Education Guidebook publication. In an interview with CNN, Iain Low, professor of architecture and urban planning at the University of Cape Town, South Africa reflected on the fellowship, saying, “This initiative could contribute an exceptionally valuable dimension to architectural discourse and education on the African continent.” For Christian, the holistic vision of the center prepares designers to respond to the critical need for high-quality infrastructure that Africa will face as it experiences rapid population growth and urbanization in the coming decades.  

I want to see a shift in the perception of what Africa can achieve. We need to offer a chance for Africans to learn how design can improve people’s lives.
— Christian Benimana, ADC Founding Director


Sarah Mohland led the implementation of the ADC fellowship curriculum and design-build program.

Alongside Sarah and Christian, a diverse group of faculty taught modules on a variety of topics, including storytelling, social justice, professional development, international development, and research to provide a holistic and interdisciplinary experience. Fellows emerged from the fellowship with a deep understanding of human-centered, high-impact design approaches and gained essential hands-on experience and leadership skills to compete in the global marketplace. The breadth and depth of knowledge that was exchanged between the diverse, interdisciplinary faculty and fellows was invaluable to the learning experience.

  • 40+ faculty instructors, operational support, and reviewers

  • 9 nationalities represented

  • Diverse backgrounds including architecture, engineering, landscape, urban planning, photography, film, and career development