Mali

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ADOBE HOUSE IN SELINGUE IN MALI

This house was built in 1978 as my residence and UN office for the population transfer I was to coordinate because of the construction of a hydroelectric dam in Sélingué, near Bamako the capital of MALI. The planned completion of the dam by 1979, meant that around 80 000 hectares would be inundated, uprooting close to 14 000 people living in seven villages. My mission had been designed to prepare all the village residents build their new villages and to initiate projects that would better their life economically.

When I arrived in the area, I found that a survey had been taken asking villagers if they wanted to live in the same type of adobe villages or in concrete-block houses. This unfortunate survey revealed that 70% of the villagers, despite the stifling hot and dry climate, wanted to live in concrete-block houses with tin roofs. For them, concrete and tin meant “modern”. Knowing that the allocated funds for the transfer could not allow for such a choice, I decided to be the first displaced person. Rather than rent a house, I asked the Authorities’ permission to build my own home and UN office according to local traditions in the hydroelectric dam site.

I looked to Mali’s most noble traditional adobe architecture to design and build. Helped by the best builders from each of the seven villages chosen by the villages’ chiefs, the small complex was completed in two months. Our construction site became an experimental school where they taught me their traditional ways, and I taught them how to improve their traditions by building larger spaces incorporating awareness of shade and wind for better ventilation, the use of adobe shelves and furniture, and other simple techniques. After this shared design and construction experience, the villagers rediscovered the merits of their indigenous architecture and dropped any discussion about building concrete-block houses. The traditional layout, based on a nuclear organisation within each family compound was maintained. Bedrooms and services were housed in typical round-plan shelters; new square and rectangular plans were introduced for guest houses and study rooms, which were of unusual dimension and therefore required reinforcement with wooden pillars.

The main improvement was the creation of a micro-climate through the abundantly planted central courtyard, usually barren; the introduction of hygienic and sanitary equipment manufactured by local potters, the treatment of wood to prevent termite damage; the facing of floors (usually tamped earth) with locally available stone-slabs; introduction of built-in shelves for the storage of articles of daily use; the technical improvement of the traditional adobe bricks, mortar, and other mud based materials for exterior wall surfacing, with bamboo and straw used for roofing materials

The objective of the project was to re-evaluate traditional settlements and improve planning and construction techniques for the new villages. The village chiefs and local representatives began participating actively in the lay-out of the new villages

Discovering that the Mali National construction standards were French since colonial times I offered a proposal for the creation of an Appropriate Technology Center respectful of the best traditional construction examples. The Center lasted 15 years, in Bamako, Mali’s capital

This house was built in 1978 as my residence and UN office for the population transfer I was to coordinate because of the construction of a hydroelectric dam in Sélingué, near Bamako the capital of MALI. The planned completion of the dam by 1979, meant that around 80 000 hectares would be inundated, uprooting close to 14 000 people living in seven villages. My mission had been designed to prepare all the village residents build their new villages and to initiate projects that would better their life economically.

When I arrived in the area, I found that a survey had been taken asking villagers if they wanted to live in the same type of adobe villages or in concrete-block houses. This unfortunate survey revealed that 70% of the villagers, despite the stifling hot and dry climate, wanted to live in concrete-block houses with tin roofs. For them, concrete and tin meant “modern”. Knowing that the allocated funds for the transfer could not allow for such a choice, I decided to be the first displaced person. Rather than rent a house, I asked the Authorities’ permission to build my own home and UN office according to local traditions in the hydroelectric dam site.

I looked to Mali’s most noble traditional adobe architecture to design and build. Helped by the best builders from each of the seven villages chosen by the villages’ chiefs, the small complex was completed in two months. Our construction site became an experimental school where they taught me their traditional ways, and I taught them how to improve their traditions by building larger spaces incorporating awareness of shade and wind for better ventilation, the use of adobe shelves and furniture, and other simple techniques. After this shared design and construction experience, the villagers rediscovered the merits of their indigenous architecture and dropped any discussion about building concrete-block houses. The traditional layout, based on a nuclear organisation within each family compound was maintained. Bedrooms and services were housed in typical round-plan shelters; new square and rectangular plans were introduced for guest houses and study rooms, which were of unusual dimension and therefore required reinforcement with wooden pillars.

The main improvement was the creation of a micro-climate through the abundantly planted central courtyard, usually barren; the introduction of hygienic and sanitary equipment manufactured by local potters, the treatment of wood to prevent termite damage; the facing of floors (usually tamped earth) with locally available stone-slabs; introduction of built-in shelves for the storage of articles of daily use; the technical improvement of the traditional adobe bricks, mortar, and other mud based materials for exterior wall surfacing, with bamboo and straw used for roofing materials

The objective of the project was to re-evaluate traditional settlements and improve planning and construction techniques for the new villages. The village chiefs and local representatives began participating actively in the lay-out of the new villages

Discovering that the Mali National construction standards were French since colonial times I offered a proposal for the creation of an Appropriate Technology Center respectful of the best traditional construction examples. The Center lasted 15 years, in Bamako, Mali’s capital

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