At the seaside just outside Tujereng, west Gambia, a house has been built for a family of three children and some bungalows to accommodate tourists. The architect's aim was to make this buildings ecological, cozy and rooted in its context. The goal from the very beginning was to construct ecological buildings with references to and in harmony with local housing traditions. The buildings are distributed around the plot in order to find the best orientation and to minimize the impact on local vegetation. The aim was to reduce the felling of trees as well as keeping the connections between different buildings and paths and trails that run through the trees. The buildings stand at a distance from the edges of the plot. This position acts as a protection from agricultural fires in neighboring vegetable plots.
Working From A Distance
The project took into account that it had to be fulfilled by remote working from Madrid without the permanent presence of the architects on the building site. All the questions had to be resolved by email and skype which made it necessary to undertake a simple project, easy to control and realize, with very clear and easily read plans. Three site visits took place on this project, each of them comprising a one week stay: one to meet the local builders and resolve queries, clarify details of the block construction and rethink the constructions on the ground; another when the walls were being finished to check all details of the woodwork, roofing, and windows; and one more visit at the end to review the last details of the house and bungalows.
Local Natural Materials. Low-Tech And Its Impact On The Community
The idea was to create an ecological home suited to the local climate and its surroundings, using passive solutions and local natural materials. The house is built with blocks of pressed earth (“BTC”), clay, sand, and lime. It is a kind of improved adobe. The blocks are made in situ with a portable press and left to solidify and dry for a month on the site. The lime of the blocks comes from a small local factory, which burns the shells of the beach to produce it. In the lumps of quicklime used in the work, the shapes of the shells can still be seen. Fragments of polished shells are also used for the pavements of the patio and porches.
The blocks are exposed in the interior and exterior walls. For the layout of the electrical and plumbing installations, a special hollowed block was created that allows the easy installation of pipes and conduits without the need to drill.
The use of the pressed earth blocks in the building of the house and the bungalows have had a great impact on the community. Several local builders have begun to use this system, seeing the cost advantages and the thermal benefits compared to hollow concrete block. The local blacksmith has already made several replicas of the block press, making small improvements and adapting to the requirements of each builder. The roofs are made by local builders from a structure of wood and straw, with the slope designed to guarantee both tightness and durability.
The house is organized around a courtyard as in traditional local housing. The patio works as a filter between the inside and the outside helping to regulate the microclimate. It creates shaded zones and freshens the air in the interior of the house. The difference in temperature contributes helps improve the natural ventilation of the house, bringing fresh air from the patio into the rooms.
In the manner of the Roman Impluvium or the traditional houses of the Casamance in Senegal, the patio collects rainwater from the roof and stores it in a large cistern, to be reused later in the irrigation of the estate’s orchards and gardens. The patio softens and regulates the strong exterior light, creating a more comfortable domestic interior. The internal walls of block heighten the warmth of the environment.
Inside, the rooms are wide. Visitors can enjoy the high ceilings with the exposed wood structure and the underside of the thatched roof. The ceilings of the rooms and corridors are made by local wood craftsmen, who use different motifs and traditional geometric patterns for each room, representing African handcraft in the interior of the house and distinguishing every room.
The complex is designed to be self-sufficient; all its energy needs being met by renewable power. The solar panels and the batteries guarantee electrical supply to the compact buildings. Being close to the equator the panels are fitted almost horizontally as it is necessary for them to be easily accessible to clean them and remove dust frequently in order to maintain their performance.