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U of M architecture graduate student Andrew Blaisdell is helping to design a school and clinic in Ethiopia.

University of Minnesota architecture student helps design school and clinic in Ethiopia

Furi School Project to serve underdeveloped rural community outside Addis Adaba

Contacts: Laura Weber, College of Design,, (612) 625-6566
Jeff Falk, University News Service,, (612) 626-1720

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (08/10/2010) —In 2009, when Wosen Kifle, a Minneapolis resident and native of Ethiopia, asked the University of Minnesota College of Design for assistance in designing an elementary school and clinic complex on his family’s land in Furi, outside of Addis Adaba, Ethiopia, architecture graduate student Andrew Blaisdell was presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Advised by assistant professor of architecture Ozayr Saloojee and supported by the College of Design, Blaisdell took on the project and, over the course of the past year, has been developing the conceptual and design framework of the project. In addition, he was sponsored by the college's School of Architecture and the dean’s office to visit Furi last spring to assess the unique socio-cultural and material conditions of the area.

His involvement quickly grew into a deeper interest in educational environment design, prompting Blaisdell to center his master’s thesis on the topic of technology and its influence on the design of education spaces.

“The primary results of my research were that students of all kinds learn best through curiosity, not compulsion, and that they are capable of teaching themselves an incredible amount through small peer groups if the teacher changes his/her role from captain to co-conspirator” Blaisdell says. “The design for the Furi School attempts to allow for this hands-on learning through a number of loosely connected and easily transformable spaces within a cohesive structure.”    

Since graduating with his masters of architecture degree in May, Blaisdell has been actively continuing his work on the design of the project. Fundraising for the Furi School Project, led by a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, is ongoing and, with the help of individual donors, Blaisdell and Kifle hope to attend the school’s groundbreaking in the near future.

Inspired by his work on the project, Blaisdell is now involved with a second design project in Africa, supporting the development of a preliminary layout for a new cancer treatment center at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center outside Moshi, Tanzania.

For more information about the Furi School Project, including Blaisdell’s design renderings and site photos, visit

Tags: College of Design

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