Pink Passive Solar Straw Bale ADU Tour Photos
18 April 2022
6 Zero-Waste Habits My Abuelita Taught Me
18 April 2022

Inside Ellen DeGeneres’s Mission to Aid Gorilla Conservation


Fewer than 100 people a day are permitted to trek into the mountain gorilla habitat in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. But for those who do, “it’s the most life-changing experience,” says Ellen DeGeneres, who first visited the region in 2015. Visitors aren’t allowed to approach the animals, but a silverback (mature male) once bumped into her sister-in-law by accident. “I was so jealous,” DeGeneres recalls. “It’s thrilling to be that close to them but knowing they don’t want to hurt you.”

Now a 60th-birthday present from her wife, Portia de Rossi, has helped underwrite what is known as the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund: a 12-acre complex dedicated to gorilla conservation. It is named for both the TV star and her idol, the self-taught naturalist, who may have single-handedly saved the mountain gorillas from extinction before she was murdered in 1985. DeGeneres has considered Fossey a hero since childhood, when she saw her on the cover of National Geographic. “Now my name is next to Fossey’s and I have a legacy that to me is more important than anything I’ve done in show business.”

Spanning multiple buildings and 12 acres, the Ellen DeGeneres Campus for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund was designed by MASS Design Group.

Before DeGeneres and de Rossi stepped in with what DeGeneres calls her “most expensive birthday present ever,” the Fossey Fund staff worked out of makeshift quarters, including a kitchen doubling as a lab. Today there’s housing and a fully equipped laboratory, classrooms for visiting students, and a museum complete with a 360-degree theater. Designed by MASS Design Group, the complex, which is anchored by three main buildings, is more than just efficient. People who see the campus think “the place looks important, so what they’re doing must be important,” says Tara Stoinski, president, CEO, and chief scientific officer for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. “The architecture will elevate the whole field of conservation.”

MASS, founded in 2008 by Alan Ricks and Michael Murphy, grew out of their work building a hospital in northern Rwanda. The firm, which maintains a base in Boston, now has an office in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, with more than 100 employees (the majority Rwandan) and close ties to the 13-year-old program at the University of Rwanda School of Architecture and Built Environment. Several of its graduates worked on the DeGeneres campus along with MASS design director Emily Goldenberg. “They’re training a new generation of architects; we’re training a new generation of scientists,” says Stoinski of the similarities between MASS and the Fossey Fund. “We love that they’re nonprofit and that they want their projects to have a larger social impact.”

An aerial view of the campus reveals the buildings’ green roofs.

Sunlight floods a dining area.

The design collaboration was so successful, Stoinski reflects, “that we went all in.” That meant hiring two relatively new divisions of the architecture firm, MASS.Build and MASS.Made, to construct the campus and create its furniture and fixtures. Those tasks employed some 2,300 workers, 99 percent of them Rwandan. At the end of their employment, many received certificates listing the skills they learned. “The quality of the construction is second to none,” says Murphy.


Source link

author avatar