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Modern Mud Homes: A New Take on Building in Ghana

By Dwell @dwell
A design contest wants Ghanaians to envision modern homes hewn from the material beneath their feet. Slideshow Pitched-roof mud house concept by M.A.M.O.T.H.

First Place: Sankofa House by M.A.M.O.T.H.

“It’s impossible to do a revolution, you need an evolution,” says Dorian Vazuelle, part of the four-person French team that won the design competition with the Sankofa House concept. “You need to go step-by-step, take elements from this vernacular architecture, think about the climate issues, and [think] in a contemporary way.”  The team’s concept was informed by local design history. They adapted a traditional pitched-roof layout, which helps with heavy rains as well as air circulation. A double-skin roof and straw insulation were adapted from other European designs, while the external stripes of colors come from different types of clay. “All the answers are already there,” says Vazuelle of the challenge of designing in a new environment. “You just have to look.”

Image courtesy of M.A.M.O.T.H..

It's a problem of expectations; when concrete and steel symbolize modernity, how does a humble mud home become architecture that's desirable? The NKA Foundation conceived of a mud home design competition earlier this year to update the aesthetics and appreciation of earthen homes in the Ashanti region of Ghana. It's an important issue since new concrete construction, which relies on imported resources, often strains the budgets of middle-class families and results in dwellings unfit for the tropical environment. The call for single family and semi-urban home designs utilizing mud construction resulted in dozens of concepts from practictioners around the globe (the winning design will be built on site next summer). Dwell spoke with the top three teams to learn about their processes and how getting their hands in the dirt made them think differently about architecture.

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