Ursa International

Karisoke Research Center



A new Karisoke is conceived

This is the second project with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) and Ursa International.  The first was a concept plan for a new Museum and Discovery Center This one focuses on three areas of interest of DFGFI's work with Mountain Gorillas in the Virungas and the Congo:

1.  Research and Development
2.  Education and Training
3. Gorilla Research and Conservation Programs

The original Karisoke Research Station  was established in 1967 by Dian Fossey on a saddle between Mt. Karisimbe, and Mt. Visoke, high in the Virungas.  It was a set of temporary cabins and sheds that were used as a base camp for the early investigation of the Mountain Gorillas behavior and their protection.  After Ms. Fossey's murder in 1985, the functions of the center has been de-centralized into several buildings in town and within villages surrounding the Park.

This project seeks to centralize the complete operation and provide a modern platform to continue to advance the work of DFGFI to save the Mountain Gorillas.

Some of the Goals of the project are:

a.    Sustainable Building Program - Use LEED principals as appropriate, yet there are going to be many challenges in the basic construction and sourcing of materials for this project, it may not be feasible to create a LEED project.  Areas to investigate will be in the day lighting use of thermal windows, sustainable energy sources such as solar and geo-thermal energy.

b.    Site - The building will be one of the largest building programs in the Virungas, and thus will create a focal point and not try to hide away. The Site is located near the DFGFI field operations and provide easy access for both tourists and for workers.

c.    Views - The building site provides an uplifting views of the Volcanoes.  The major vistas will be to the Southwest and access from the South and East.

d.    Engineering - While this will be a sophisticated building, with electrical, heating and plumbing, these systems need to be built simply and have easy to maintain and replacement parts.

e.    Entry - Single entry for Visitors and staff with an iconic sculpture and access to the Visitor Center and computer classroom.
f.    Transport - A DFGFI bus will be used to pick up and return trackers and workers who  live in town and need transport to the remote setting.  Additional parking will be provided for visitors, small tour buses and coaches.

g.    Use local materials such as:
-Volcanic Rock for interior thermal wall
-Stucco & insulation on concrete block
-Ceramic Tile for roofing
-Green Roof where appropriate
-Kiln-dried Eucalyptus for flooring

h.    Housing - Create a series of housing units on site to provide accommodations for several users; Stand alone houses for Staff and their families,  Guest House for VIP's, suites for Research Associates, visiting scientists, and dorms for Students..

i.     Synergy - The site is located on a new road to a proposed Eco-lodge.  Access to the visitor center by the tourists will provide a natural synergy and potential future donors.  Other elements will include water supply reservoirs and infrastructure.  The DevCo property will provide future staff and opportunities for economic development in the village.

The drawings on the left are attempts to provide a starting point in the design of this important facility and gather support from government and private funding sources.