The Wondrous Gurunsi Earth Houses of Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso, the small country of near the border to Ghana may not have many resources or economic wealth, but with the plentiful raw materials available the Kassena people make some of the most culturally rich and architecturally beautiful villages, such as this one in tiébélé, built using traditional Gurunsi vernacular.

The dwellings occupy a community of just over one hectare in area, and are made of a sun-dried mix of clay, soil, straw and cow droppings moistened to a perfect mortar, mixed by foot to create strong pottery-like structures. These techniques actually preceded the well-known mud-brick constructions of indigenous peoples in the area. Layer upon layer are added when needed, maintaining the necessary wall thickness to withstand rainstorms and extreme temperatures. Short walls are used as urban landscaping elements, provide a buttressing support, and offer supplementary places to sit or work.

The most amazing feature, however, is the intricate ornamentation that covers almost every square inch of the dwellings, painted with colored mud and chalk that tell an expressive story of the ancient tribe’s culture. The motifs can illustrate just about anything from objects used in normal daily life, to religion and beliefs, to decorative patterns that distinguish one house from the other.

The artwork is then embossed with rocks and etchings that highlight the designs and give a truly unique character. The material, along with small openings usually located closer to the ground assist in comfortable interior temperatures. The construction is made with abundant resources found on site that can be re-applied endlessly.


Can you live in any of these houses? Tell us what you think below.


Post culled from Design Boom

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