How Earthbags and Glass Bottles Can ‘Build’ a Community

A design by C-re-a.i.d. for a Maasai village in northern Tanzania, is a morphological response to the imposed need to settle, using sustainable, local and accessible materials to redefine its construction culture.

The project is built by a series of earthbags and glass bottles that in addition to generating private and comfortable spaces, allow a quick and easy construction.


© Freya Candel

© Freya Candel

From the Architects. C-re-a.i.d. -Change Research Architecture Innovation Design- is a non-profit organization operating in northern Tanzania since 2012. Through experience and analysis, we uncovered a rapid changing building culture, poor living situations and the use of unecological materials. We explore the possibilities of architecture to promote long-term ecological and affordable building.


© Mathias Cornille

© Mathias Cornille

Our projects are located in different villages in the surroundings of Moshi, one of them being Maji Moto – 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. 


© Mathias Cornille

© Mathias Cornille

© Mathias Cornille

© Mathias Cornille

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. 


© Mathias Cornille

© Mathias Cornille

We try to turn things around by doing research and informing the local community of the consequences of their actions. 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. 


© Mathias Cornille

© Mathias Cornille

© Mathias Cornille

© Mathias Cornille

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.


© Mathias Cornille

© Mathias Cornille

© Mathias Cornille

© Mathias Cornille

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. 


Cortesía de C-re-a.i.d.

Cortesía de C-re-a.i.d.

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.


Cortesía de C-re-a.i.d.

Cortesía de C-re-a.i.d.

Cortesía de C-re-a.i.d.

Cortesía de C-re-a.i.d.

Project Name: Old Habits, New Ideas
Architects: C-re-a.i.d.
Lead Architects: Mathias Cornille, Marianne Ghoos, Marie Heyvaert, Samantha Welby
Location: Maasai Village
Year: 2016
Area: 31m2
Otros Participants: 15 students and 4 teachers of a Belgian secondary school  (VTI Brugge)
Photography: Eva Cabezuelo, Freya Candel, Mathias Cornille

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