Nkabom House being constructed

Play Video


Mud and plastic are key components for African house built by Cass architecture student

Nkabom House, designed by Anna Webster, was built in Ghana in May this year.

Date: 2 July 2015

Anna Webster, fourth year architecture student at The Sir John Cass Faculty of Art Architecture and Design designed the Nkabom House in response to a competition launched by Ghanian non-profit organisation, the Nka Foundation.

The competition invited proposals for a single-family house to be built for £6,000 or under and stipulated that mud be used as one of the main construction materials. They asked entries to demonstrate that ‘mud architecture can be both beautiful and durable’.

Anna chose a traditional African technique using compacted earth. Her design incorporated traditional construction methods, modern design and recycled materials

In May 2015 Anna, along with two other architecture students, Eliana Stenning and Phoebe Stock, travelled to the Abetenim Arts Village, a learning centre operated by the Nka Foundation to host 10 week workshop and to build the Nkabom House.

The design evolved over the building process as the team learned more about the site conditions, the building materials and the local labour.

"The design retained the original driving concepts of the competition entry focusing on reinventing materials which are often discarded or overlooked," Anna told design and architecture magazine Dezeen.

"We aimed to overcome the negative associations of these materials and move away from the primitive image of building with earth by applying a modern design aesthetic."

A key aim of the project was to identify a practical use for waste packaging. "It was especially rewarding to address this issue of waste plastic," said Anna, "as rubbish collection is not practised in the village and these water sachets are otherwise left in piles in the bush and around the village."

Plastic sachets used to distribute clean water were collected by households in the village and woven by school children to create louvres and mesh grills which could be used inside the windows and roof.

The main aim of the project was to demonstrate the potential of traditional mud construction as well as promoting an exchange of knowledge, skills and ideas between different cultures.

The outcome is a small house built for just under £5,000 that is now occupied by the village's community coordinator and headmaster of the local school, along with his wife and baby daughter.

"It is our hope that the future projects in Abetenim will learn from the successes and failures of Nkabom house, adopting and developing the systems it employs," said Anna.

Anna completed Nkabom House for the Free Unit at The Cass, under the direction of tutors Robert Mull, Catrina Beevor and Peter Carl. Unlike typical masters units, where students work to a brief, the Free Unit allows any built project to contribute towards a student's master's degree.