From Mendrisio to Rwanda, the career path of Enrica Pastore

View of the casting of an underground reservoir to collect water from springs in a rural area
View of the casting of an underground reservoir to collect water from springs in a rural area

Institutional Communication Service

10 April 2020

The choice a student makes in terms of academic studies do not always lead to a position in the same disciplinary field. All the more so when the choice goes in favour of a school where the technical disciplines are coupled with the humanities, such as the USI Academy of Architecture, from which Enrica Pastore graduated in 2016, then going for a second graduate degree in Milan in the field of water management in international cooperation. Since 2018 Enrica has lived and worked in Rwanda, East Africa,  as a consultant for a few governmental institutions and NGOs, also collaborating with architectural firms and students from universities in the region. We reached Enrica digitally, also asking her how the spread of Covid-19 is affecting the African continent.

After studying in Mendrisio, Enrica wanted to acquire skills in a new field, working within an NGO in Milan (Istituto Oikos) and then going to Tanzania. "I was in the Maasai communities in the north of the country, in a research and training center (Mkuru Training Camp) where I followed a food education project in five primary schools," says Enrica. In order to acquire specific technical knowledge to continue working in this sector, she underwent further training in Water Resources Management in International Cooperation at the Bicocca University in Milan, which then led her to go to Rwanda, where she began her career designing an aqueduct for a rural area by collaborating with the Italian organization MLFM.

During the period she spent in Rwanda, where she is currently, she put her knowledge in the field of architecture at stake to help improve the infrastructure of the area. Enrica has in fact started collaborating with a government company that deals with infrastructure development, as part of the "Vision 2020" plan and promotion of "Made in Rwanda" (a plan that follows the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN). Today, as Project Manager, she is in charge of a research centre and laboratories under construction: "I am in charge of the design and supervision and manage a group of about seven engineers - explains Enrica - I also set up my activty as an independent architect, carrying out work on different scales and subjects. For about a year now I have been following a research project on the design of public spaces in Kigali with three other architects".

The knowledge acquired at the Accademia in Mendrisio was essential for her career. "The USI Academy of Architecture has given me a solid preparation as an architect, capable of dealing with different projects, the so-called universal architect, and I think that the ability to test oneself even in contexts as diverse as the African one is proof of this", says Enrica. Understanding the systems, methods and culture of the place is a fundamental step in this work, which has led her to acquire new notions and to collaborate with students of local architecture: "I have in fact had the opportunity to investigate issues such as the use of more sustainable and 'local' materials, the principles of 1climate adaptive and climate responsive design' and participatory design with communities. Together with the students of the University of Architecture, I held workshops to explore techniques for realising models. The students are very motivated to learn and every now and then I involve them in my work where they help me to make surveys and models", Enrica explains.

The Covid-19 epidemic is unfortunately also affecting the African continent, and has led to the closure of borders, the blocking of flights and the suspension of school activities in most East African countries. As Enrica explains, "Rwanda has taken very strict measures from the outset to limit the contagion. With regards to my work, during the first week, the site remained open and then closed shortly afterwards: this meant that the workers were immediately given initial training on the safety measures to be put in place". Enrica is keen to point out that the vision we have of African countries today is often influenced by stereotypes: "There is a sort of 'normality' even working in a country in Africa. Despite the differences, many aspects of my practice are similar to the Italian and Swiss context where I grew up and studied. I invite everyone to discover these realities, overcoming preconceptions," concludes Enrica.