Home Forums Architectural Designs and Structures From Africa AFRICAN BUILDING DESIGN: HOW ARE HOUSES BUILT IN AFRICA

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    Kelvin Ash

      African building design is as diverse at the continent itself. However African building design has over the years been influenced by both their indigenous styles and European style. Religion also has strongly influenced some parts of Africa in their building design. Most African people use materials that are natural and available to them to build their houses.



      Africans architectural styles that are indigenous to them, are unique to each tribe or community. Africans homes are built with diverse style and materials. It is common to see different architectural styles in Africa.  For instance, it is not strange to find villages that are circular made up of circular houses.The use of  thatch and wood in building homes is indigenous to those who live in the central part of Africa. In the Northern part  Africa, Stone and rammed earth were mainly used while stone and mortar is used in the Horn of Africa while the Southern part of Africa involve in the use of stone, thatch and wood for their building designs. These materials listed  including mud, are presently used by African architects in rural Africa.



      Presently, Africa has some ancient structures made of stone. These are much more durable. The pyramids of Egypt are very good examples of the oldest stone architecture in Africa. These pyramids were built more than 4,500 years ago.



      Let’s take a look at how houses are built in Africa ranging from various parts in Africa.



      The Egyptian’s pyramids



      The most popular African architecture are the  Egyptian’s pyramids. While the Great Pyramids of Giza which are massive are  the most magnificent of all the pyramids ever constructed. These pyramids do not only depict the architectural design at that time but the role the pharaohs at that time can be felt. After over 4000 years, Egypt still receives thousands of visitors yearly. Visitors who are craving to have a glimpse of this architecture that display Egypt’s rich and glorious history.



      Ghana, curved stone, thatch roofs and mud walls



      Like most Africans who used materials readily available to them, Ghanas depend on materials that are natural. Early 1000 BCE,  carved stone were used to erect temples, tombs and monuments.The oldest mosque, the Larabanga Mosque, depicts Ghana ancient buildings. Pretty much like other traditional mosques in Africa, the walls are built with mud and poles sticking out of the walls.  Homes are built with mud or wood wall and thatched roofs. The mud are preferable because of their sustainability.



      The Ethiopian Aksumite Architecture




      Dating back to the first century, the Aksumite African architecture derives its name from Aksum who were a wealthy African empire. After the collapse of the Empire about 1,300 years ago, the influence of this empire was felt. The gains realized from the trade of luxury goods made this empire to build urban centres and this is how the city of Aksum came into existence. Stone walls which were plastered with mud or lime were used in making rectangular buildings. This method of construction was adopted in other places in Ethiopia and Eritea.


      The nomads and pastoralists in East Africa building



      Nomadic lifestyle are embraced by some Africans and they are forced to have a temporary shelter wherever they go. This can be seen in the lifestyle of the San of the Kalahari who make simple guys which were made of woods and covered with braided grass mats to keep out heat and cold from their houses. Others are the Hadza of Tanzania who build dome-shaped houses. They use tied branches and thick thatch in building their homes. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), there is a tribe called the Bambuti who are from Ituri Forest.  The Bambuti also interlaced sticks and laid mongongo leaves on the ground for their dwelling. The Masaai of Tanzania can’t be omitted when we speak of nomads. This tribe has a unique style of building their homes. Their homes are  typically 2-3 meters tall. Women from this tribe gets woods from the leleshwa bush. The woods are gotten from this particular bush because it repels termite. These woods are dug close together and cow dung are used to seal the gaps in between the woods. Poles are used as roofs while leaves are used to fill the gaps between the poles in order to keep their homes warm.



      The Tswana, Zulus and Swazis compounds



      Buildings of similar houses in one compound is not alien to Africans. Initially, Africans live in community. Houses that were cylindrical, single-cell houses with conical thatched roofs were prevalent throughout Southern Africa. Methods of construction vary in this community. Flattened domes or high conical roofs are prevalent among Swazi and Zulu. The Tswana of Botswana made houses that had veranda with thatched roofs. There was a common method which was building walls with a ring of posts and these walls had infilling of basket weave and plastered with mud.



      South Africa’s single cell round huts


      Traditional huts that are common in sub-Sahara Africa are not just simple but they are the great efforts of Africa architects.

      In South Africa, traditional huts are professionally thatched using tightly woven grass to provide shelter against the heat and to allow the hut dry when it rains. While nearby in  Malawi, the mud walls are used alongside witwood or bamboo. Even some communities  go as far as drying the mud to create mud bricks.



      The Akan, Nigeria and the Asante of Ghana forest dwellers



      The European traders greatly influenced the Akan people who built rectangular houses with flat roofs. Walls which are insulated with muds built as rectangular were erected by the Yorubas and Igbos in Nigeria. Their roofs were thatched leaves. The Fon of Benin and the Baule of Cote d’ivoire developed their houses using this similar style. The Asante of Ghana developed their houses using poles and mud-infillings for the walls.

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