House with patio in Tujereng, Gambia
Architecture: Virai Arquitectos, Madrid

Example of an ecological house adapted to the African climate, using passive and local solutions, as well as natural materials. Situated close to the sea, not far from the capital, Banjul, the place is peaceful.

The owners of this house left their home in Barcelona to settle here and create two projects. First of all, the school Fandema which they manage – this special development project includes a nursery school and a training centre for hand-crafted apprenticeship, computer learning, renewable energy installation and a responsible tourism project.

Right from the start, their demand gives priority to comfortable and ecological constructions well rooted in the environment. Designed by Juan Manuel Herranz Molina and his team, the residence and its outhouses were executed at distance from Madrid. This obligation has required a simple construction, easy to realize with clear plans.

Only three one week visits on the spot were necessary to rethink the buildings’ establishment, meet the local constructors, clarify the details, check the execution of the carpentry and finally examine all the remaining points. Internet did all the rest of the work. The house is built with packed down earth blocks, sand and lime, realized in situ with a mobile press and dried during one month on the building site. Coming from the small local industry, the blocks are produced from shells which are visible on the inside and outside walls.

Pipes and ducts are integrated in some specially created blocks.The use of pressed blocks has a major impact in the community and many local manufacturers are starting to use this system, thanks to the advantages in terms of cost and thermal behaviour. Whilst the roofings are realized in a wood and straw structure, with an adequate slope to guarantee watertightness and sustainability. Worth noting the ceilings and their traditional braiding with different geometric motives coming directly from the local handicraft.

The architects have favoured the settlement around the patio, as per a local typology. The latter serves as a filter with the outside world, softens the very strong outside light by creating an area with shadow and freshness inside the house. The difference of temperature enables to improve the natural ventilation in the house. Like the Roman impluvium or the traditional houses in Casamance (Senegal), the patio collects the rainwater which is stocked in a big water tank enabling it to be used for the irrigation of the orchards and the gardens of the estate. A small annexe shelters the solar panels and batteries to ensure the electrical power. The buildings are spread out on the land to take advantage of the best orientation, in the clearings, by reducing the impact on the forest. Separated from each other right up to the land’s limits, they are covered by a very dense green vegetation, the whole year through.

Photos © Juan Manuel Herranz Molina & Marta Parra Casado