Located near the Petite Côte (Small Coast) of Senegal an hour-and-a-half south of Dakar, the Khamsa house, doesn't just blend in with the environment. In many ways, the earthen retreat is the environment, formed from concrete-reinforced bricks made from the soil on which the home was built. The machine that formed the clay bricks even utilized earth dug out to make the curving basement, building walls for the roughly 3,800-square-feet home out of the readily available raw material. Atelier Koe built Khamsa, Arabic for the number five, with a series of oval symbols meant to symbolize warding off the evil eye and keeping the peace. But according to architect Richard Rowland, it's also a sidelong glance directed at traditonal building practices. "The history of this type of building technique is 5,000 years old," he says. "Concrete construction is very new. Built with lime and earth, this building will breathe, with the walls acting as regulators, cooling and absorbing humidity. It can absolutely integrate with American living standards." Rowland gave us an overview of the self-sustaining, off-the-grid home, speaking to the numerous ways it can serve as a model, as opposed to just a building on the fringe.
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