Old Habits, New Ideas - Earthbag building

Old Habits, New Ideas - Earthbag building


Mathias Cornille, Marianne Ghoos, Marie Heyvaert, Samantha Welby
Project Year


Private Houses

Old Habits, New Ideas

C-re-aid as Architects

Our projects are located in different villages in the surroundings of Moshi, one of them being a Maasai village. Tanzanian government decided to restrict the nomadic lifestyle of Maasai people, and forced them to settle down. Since they were used to trekking, up to this day, their structures reflect a certain degree of temporality. Ever since Maasai were forced to settle, they have struggled to redefine their building culture in order to align it with their new lifestyle; local communities are caught in between tradition and modernization.

Burned bricks, glass and corrugated sheets replaced mud, sticks and leaves. Although this newly introduced way of building complies with their needs and wishes, it doesn't align with the context. In order to produce the burned bricks, trees need to be cut and this means the area suffers from the clear deforestation that has been going on for some time. Arid land can be seen as the direct result of this process and eventually agriculture will become close to impossible in the near future. With C-re- aid, we try to turn things around by doing research and informing the local community on the consequences of their actions for generations to come. The technique of earthbags offers local craftsmen an alternative for the burned bricks, since it uses only sand and soil. Not only does this way of building present a more sustainable material, it also offers additional comfort to the living conditions because of its thermal mass.

The family’s living condition was mainly defined by a lack of privacy. That is exactly why the design focuses on the notion of living-together- apart. The concept consists of three intertwining circles: one for the mother, one for the daughter, and a common area in between. Building with earthbags lends itself perfectly to the design of circular units, as no lateral support is required. Furniture was incorporated in the structure and glass bottles were used to add light to the interior.

The labour intensive building method of earthbags wouldn’t have been an option if it wasn’t for the helping hands of 15 students and 4 teachers of a Belgian secondary school (VTI Brugge). This close collaboration between future craftsmen and architects turned design into reality in no time.

Definitely take the time to check out the time-lapse video we did: https://vimeo.com/191458107

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