A house is always the hardest architectural challenge. It is the most complex project of all, since it is where life thrives. Assuming that the exercise intends to resolve the most basic problem of our existence, the dwelling, the starting point for the project had to be elemental, in every sense of the word. Concentrating the 4 elements at the center of the house would allow life to develop towards them. Water, air, fire and earth transform the experience of the family into an everlasting sequence of events: rainwater will fall through the compluvium and go straight to the 4,500 lt. underground water cistern; the central oculus allows every space inside the house to have cross ventilation, creating a balanced thermal comfort; the inner firepit will become the hearth during winter and can work as a fireplace to cook and gather the family; earth walls surround and create the physical boundaries of the building.
The vernacular architectural analysis of the Iraqw and the Tanzanian region concluded in the adoption of their constructive, material, functional and typological logic. Inverting the roof, a slight modification of the collective imagery of their home, became a requirement in order to accomplish a correct functioning of the building and its elements. This operation enables natural light to bathe the interior, it gathers rainwater, it acts as a ventilation bell, and it grants the inner spaces independence from the roof structure, allowing future modifications.
The material election is based on immediate availability: earth, extracted from the water cistern hole, for the outer walls, wood for the pillars and the inner enclosure, metal for the joints and the roof beams and corrugated metal sheets for the roof. The ceiling is made of traditional thatch weaving and it pretends to incorporate local craftsmanship as a constructive element, the same way the rooms’ ceiling is also made out of traditional African textiles.
The sanitary solution for the bathrooms is to build composting toilets, which offer a sustainable alternative for this problem. The showers are made out of small water tanks that can be refilled with rainwater. The roof that covers both the toilets and the showers also works as a receptacle for rainwater and it allows each space to have cross ventilation.