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Why do I love indigenous architecture?
by Katy Purviance on 04/30/08 @ 03:59:31 pm
Categories: Observations, Articles | 381 words | 2037 views

I just came across this post on The Carnivore Chronicle.

It reminded me of my Peace Corps days in Burkina Faso, and the mud huts of my village, Pama, not for from the border of Benin.

Bomas are traditional low huts constructed by the Maasai tribe as living quarters. They are constructed from sticks topped with layers of branches and then plastered with a mix of mud and manure. Women traditionally construct the boma themselves, using what is available to them, in accordance with tradition. They have a low flat roof of the same materials and often lack windows, with smoke, light and air sneaking in and out from the spiral entry. The wife sleeps in here with the kids and the smaller animals and cooks with charcoal as well. I had the opportunity to enter one, and it was not an experience that I am eager to repeat. But Laly and Buddy have taken this local building concept and modified it to fit their needs. Their boma has a high ceiling with a layer of tin for rainwater collection under the insulating layers of thatch, which also prevents the shining tin from being visible from the hills across the way. It also has glass windows for light and ventilation and linear sides, creating a more functional space. Their boma is constructed with stones extracted from the surrounding hills that are laid by a local mason using a mortar composed largely of the earth from abandoned termite mounds, which have a distinct adhesive quality from the saliva of termites. Some other bomas, which will be used as staff and visiting student housing, are actually built by the Maasai women of the village, but with the same modifications of waterproofing, windows, a door, and higher ceilings under thatch roofing.

Why do I love indigenous architecture? Let me count the ways.

1. There is something infinitely more pleasing in forming a dwelling with one’s own hands…instead of a computer.

2. It is completely local – from the people who think it up, to the builders, to the construction materials.

3. Building it is often a community endeavor, bonding the community together.

4. It does not require extensive communiques with the Planning and Zoning Board.

5. The inhabitants won’t spend 30 years paying it off.

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