The Kassena people of Burkina Faso build some of the most beautiful homes you’ll see, out of the most unusual of materials. The small, landlocked country is sandwiched between Ghana to the south and Mali to the north, yet the country still holds many diverse cultures. The Kassena village featured here – Tiébélé – is a small circular place covering just 3 acres and is the home of their most stunning architecture – decorated top to bottom with gorgeous black geometric patterns and images of local culture.
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The short buildings are made from what is locally available – walls are constructed using a mixture of clay soil mixed with straw and cow dung, forming almost vertical walls and durable pottery-like structures once the foot-mixed materials dry. To western observers, the techniques may seem primitive (or even gross if cow dung is included), but don’t be fooled: the long-lasting technique is making a modern comeback in the green building movement, often called “Cob” construction in english speaking countries. Earthen homes have provided safe, comfortably insulated dwellings for thousands of years, with many relatively recent examples (like homes in Devon, England; and amazing apartment towers in Yemen) lasting for hundreds of years. With the comically wide availability of dirt and the fact that it can be used over and over again, will these sustainable methods become a more common sight in the future?