The Khamsa house is a unique earth-friendly retreat located about 90 minutes outside of Dakar in Senegal. Designed and built by French architecture firm Atelier Koe, this home is so green that it emerges from the earth as an extension of it, rather than something imposed upon it. Constructed from clay harvested from the building site and powered entirely by solar and wind energy, the Khamsa house is a marvelous example of what happens when ancient building techniques are paired with today’s technology. The roughly 3,800-square-foot home is estimated to have cost 15 percent less than its 70-year-old owner would have spent to build a traditional home in the same location.
Unlike many earthen structures, the Khamsa earth house looks quite luxurious. Atelier Koe constructed the home from concrete-reinforced bricks made from clay, which was harvested from the site on which the structure now sits. The same machine that created those bricks also carved the home’s curvy basement walls right out of the earth. Architect Richard Rowland took Dwell on a tour of the home to investigate its eco-friendly features. Rowland is quick to point out these building techniques are quite ancient, despite the home’s modern appointments. He explained these approaches were selected because of their economic benefits, as well as the environmental advantages. The clay walls are thicker than standard construction, which enables the natural materials to offer a modicum of climate control. “Concrete construction is very new,” said Rowland. “Built with lime and earth, this building will breathe, with the walls acting as regulators, cooling and absorbing humidity. It can absolutely integrate with American living standards.”
Steel and glass walls line one side of the home, inviting in the abundant sunlight. The interior walls of the home are almost entirely bathed in a soft white hue which creates a serene and airy feeling. Inside, the architecture is all about clean lines and minimalist fixtures. Giant windows on either side of the home can be opened for ventilation in the peak of the African summer heat.
Outside of the eco-friendly nature in which this home was built, Khamsa house boasts a slew of other green features. Rooftop solar panels and a wind turbine provide all the electricity needed for the home, so no grid power is necessary. In the home’s courtyard, a large pool utilizes a natural filtration system that relies on plants to clean the water instead of harsh chemicals, similar to the freshwater swimming pool in progress at King’s Cross in London.
The curved eye-shaped symbol built into the wall, which appears in several places on the property, is meant to refer to the Eye of Horus and act as a amulet of protection. The home also offers a solar-powered jacuzzi tub nearby, if the freshwater pool doesn’t excite you quite enough.
Images via Régis L’hostis