On 11th April we will be working with The Architects Project as part of their #tappingGhana initiative to host a workshop here in Abetenim!
The workshop will look at reinventing traditional Ghanaian architecture into contemporary architectural languages of modern society. On the day our team will be working with the participants to construct a sachet shelter/scultpture which will overlook the football pitch in the village.
All are welcome so come along to Abetenim on the 11th April!
This is Antonia, she is an architectural assistant in London having done her part 1 at Central Saint Martins. Antonia was born in London and lived in Ghana for 10 years before coming back to the UK. She has joined this project having not been to Ghana for 13 years so it is great for her to reconnect with family and great for us to have a Twi speaker on site!
Section by section, lift by lift the character of each wall revealed itself with the removal of the formwork. Each wall is unique with imprints of the wood grain being left in the surface. If the mix was too wet, small chunks of the wall would come away with the removal of the timber; palm oil from the forest behind the site was used to lubricate the forms to help with this and in some cases we would use the same mix to hand patch the wall afterwards.
As a prototype, we have used the building to test and explore the potential of rammed earth construction, using custom made formwork to create alcoves for shelves and angled windows in the bathroom. The response from locals to the building as an earthen structure has been extremely positive. Now we have a team of local rammed earth experts who have the means to take forward traditional and sustainable earth construction in this new form. With three weeks left of the workshop it's all hands on deck - We are feverishly cutting and weaving the water sachets into different designs for window and roof panels while beginning the landscape and interior design details.
Meet Max (on the left) and Kal (on the right). They both arrived on the 14th March, Max from London and Kal from Australia.
Max is an analyst at a shipbroker’s in London and has joined the project for two weeks to support Anna and to help out on site.
Kal is from Rosebud in Victoria, she studied her BA in Architecture at Deakin University in Austraila and previously volunteered on many different projects around the world.
In Abetenim, as in many parts of Africa, the earth is typically made up of a red soil containing iron oxides called Laterite. However, throughout the village the colour and texture of the soil varies dramatically. We took a selection of samples of these soils and tested them for clay content, organic matter and particle size. Conveniently, we found the most appropriate soil for rammed earth construction was the sample taken from behind the site.
This soil however had very little clay content and as a result would need some cement added for stabilisation. Aside from the obvious environmental disadvantages of using cement in the mix, it reduces the natural breathability of an earthen wall which makes it so suited to tropical climates. In our mission to find a stabiliser to replace the cement, we tested an array of natural matter including: egg white, flour, fire ash, palm tree pulp, boiled cows feet and animal blood. The most successful of these tests was the egg white, however as a proposal which could be used locally, egg white would be neither practical nor affordable to add in the mix. However these findings are worthwhile as egg white may be good render to use for waterproofing in the bathroom.
As a compromise, to account for weathering and splash back from heavy rainfall, the final mix for the walls is 95% earth and 5% cement, 97.5% earth and 2.5% cement in the second lift and 100% earth in the final lift (3 lifts of 700mm making a total height of 2100mm).