Anna Webster, student at the Cass, London Metropolitan University’s School of Architecture, designed a simple but sturdy house that fits right into the Ghanaian countryside where it has been built. Webster created the design as part of a competition that called for proposals to build a single-family home in the Ashanti region of southern Ghana. The house combines traditional earthen walls with recycled plastic screens to demonstrate a practical style of building that can be utilized throughout the region, while also demonstrating how mud can be a beautiful addition to modern construction techniques.
The building competition was organized by the Nka Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote humanitarian efforts through the arts. One of the competition’s conditions stated that the walls must be built from mud. “We aimed to overcome the negative associations of these materials and move away from the primitive image of building with earth by applying a modern design aesthetic,” says Webster. These rammed earth walls are easily constructed, noncombustible, able to maintain internal temperature with wild fluctuations, and sturdy.
After the mud walls were constructed, a natural sealant derived from cassava starch was applied to prevent water from degrading the home’s exterior surfaces. Much of the home’s internal structure was created by the use of recycled waste materials, a plentiful resource with little obvious use in rural Ghana. Thick plastic bags, used to transport clean water in the region, were refitted to build the home’s roof and windows. “It was especially rewarding to address this issue of waste plastic,” Webster says, “as rubbish collection is not practiced in the village and these water sachets are otherwise left in piles in the bush and around the village.”
The construction of the house cost $7865 and is now occupied by the family of a local school headmaster. Of the house’s legacy, Webster says that “it is our hope that the future projects in Abetenim will learn from the successes and failures of Nkabom house, adopting and developing the systems it employs.”