GANDO, Burkina Faso — Architect Diébédo Franics Kéré was the only child from his home town to attend school. We wrote before about how the women of his village gave him coins on the day he left, a sign that they were contributing to his education and expected him to return and give back to the community when he was ready.
One of those projects was the primary school Kéré built in 2004. Accompanying that school was housing specifically for the teachers. It shares its visual style with the nearby school, in part due to the 15,000 earth blocks making up the homes. Villagers assisted with the project and produced up to 1,000 blocks each day. The studio says of the design:
The simplicity of the design and minimal use of bought materials means that it can easily be adopted by the villagers. The six houses for teachers and their families are arranged in a wide arc to the south of the school complex. This curvilinear layout is not only beautiful but is also reminiscent of a traditional Burkinabé compound. The roofs are barrel vaults constructed from stabilized earth blocks. This construction method, previously unheard of in this region, makes use of local resources and is climatically efficient. To protect the building from rising damp, the 40cm thick adobe walls stand on a foundation of cast in-situ cement and granite stones.
The houses respond to environmental concerns characteristic to the region. The roof is raised from the walls, creating a sickle-shape for letting in natural light and ventilation. The roof overhangs to protect the walls from moisture. The studio also adapted a traditional weatherproofing practice.
In traditional Burkinabé houses, a special type of thin loam rendering – mixed with vegetable juice and cow dung – is applied to the outer walls as a protective layer of about 3cm against weathering. Unfortunately these components are of little use in the rainy season and attract termites which can eventually destroy the walls. In the teachers’ housing, the traditional organic components of the rendering were replaced with bitumen.
What do you think of this earth block architecture? Let us know in the comments.