Nka Foundation












Reinventing the African Mud Hut Together

Nka Foundation invites entries for Mud House Design 2014, an international architecture competition open to recent graduates and students of architecture, design and others from around the world who think earth architecture can be beautiful. Registration and submission of entries run from March 15, 2014 until August 31, 2014.  Contact: info@nkafoundation.org / www.nkafoundation.org

The challenge is to design a single-family unit of about 30 x 40 feet on a plot of 60 x 60 feet to be built by maximum use of earth and local labor in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. The client of your design is the middle-income family in any township of your choice in the Ashanti Region. Total costs of constructing the design entry must not exceed $6,000; land value is excluded from this price point. The entry should serve as an example to the local people that mud architecture can be beautiful and durable.

What is the design problem? The cause is this: in Ghana, as in other countries in West Africa, stereotypes about buildings made of earth persist because of poor construction. Earth architecture is fast giving way to modern dwellings made of cement blocks and other modern materials that are not simply expensive but thermally and acoustically problematic. From the cities to the low-income villages, use of concrete - despite its dependence on imported resources - is considered indispensable for building. The rising cost of the modern building materials manufactured from imported resources makes it very difficult for low-income families to become homeowners. Yet an excellent, cheap and local alternative called laterite, red earth, is available everywhere in Ghana.

For example, in the Abetenim area, 98% of the homes are made of earth, however local stereotypes about buildings made of earth persist because there are several examples of mud homes that have eroded over time due to poor construction and water damage. That is why there is local stigma associated with mud architecture. The local perception is that mud buildings are only for the very poor. We reason that a design intervention can help generate alternatives to resolve the problem.

In light of the problem, we are running Mud House Design Competition to encourage designers, architects and builders to use their creativity to come up with innovative designs for modest, affordable homes that can be built locally. The design should aim at creating a single family and semi-urban house type that is a place to live, a place to rest, store modest belongings, and feel safe. The first place winning entry will be built on a site in the Ashanti Region.  

What is the preferred construction method for the winning entries? The method to be used to construct your design concept can be cob construction, rammed earth, mud brick, cast earth (poured earth) by formwork, or any other earth construction techniques that can be easily learned by local labor. Roofing design could be of vault, fired mud roof, or corrugated zinc sheets, which is the conventional roofing materials because zinc roofing stands the heavy rainfall better. Your design entry may therefore aim to accomplish a prototype, a durable mud house that promotes open source design for the continuity of building with earth under the feet for a more sustainable future. 
Undeniably, the competition promotes open source design, as a sustainable development model.  By Open Source, we imply that the submitted designs will be available for all to appreciate, use, or improve them to generate a more practical and contemporary design solutions for the region. The long-term goal is to enable the Ghanaian population and lots of other places, to overcome the stigma that mud architecture is architecture for the very poor. 

2014 Mud House Design
Design Problem: A Typical Mud House at Abetenim

2014 Mud House Design
Design Problem: A Typical Mud House at Abetenim Village


Registration opens! March 15, 2014

Submissions April 31-August 31, 2014
Registration Deadline August 15, 2014
Selection of projects by the Jury: September 15 - September 30, 2014 
Press release on the winning projects, October 5, 2014
Design-build workshops to realize two of the winning designs, November 2014-July 2015
A traveling exhibition of all of the works received (schedule to be announced).

(1) An individual or a design team can submit an entry to the Mud House Design competition. The individual participant can be a student or a graduate since 31st Jan 2010 and the design team can be two or more persons. A team can submit more than one entry. Each team shall identify one team member as its Point of Contact (“Point of Contact”) during the submission process.
(2) In order to enter the design contest, you must register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mud-house-design-competition-tickets-10697036123 and with your entry ticket number submit your design entry via mudhousedesign@mail.com. The registration fee per entry is $60 for individual and $80 for a team. The number on your ticket (6-digit code) is your registration number for one design entry. If you are submitting more than one entry, each design entry requires a separate ticket. If you want to pay by check, send us an e-mail: info@nkafoundation.org / www.nkafoundation.org and the following information: Team Name, Team Leader, Name, Phone Number and Email for Each Team Member. Place your ticket number and the title of the project (no name) on all pages of your design submission to allow the jury to select blindly.
(3) SUBMISSION FORMAT: (1) Text file (Word format) containing the design statement (600 words max) for publication purposes. The design statement should include material description, budget in USD, and the entrants’ personal information including name, profession, address, and email. (2) Three A1 presentation boards submited as JPG files of high-quality resolution that when printed at 100 percent size would be 45cm(h) x 90cm(w) each (landscape format). The file size of each presentation board must not exceed 3MB. The upper right corner of each board must contain the entry ticket number. There should not be any marks or any other form of identification. The files must be named after the ticket number followed by the board number. For example, 112334-1.jpg, 112334_2.jpg, and 112334_3.jpg (for your presentation boards). Required submittals include the site plan, floor plan, elevations, sections, perspective views, roof plan and project statement explaining the design. Submissions must be in English language.
(4) Of the nominated projects (20), there will be three winning projects, according to the highest scores. Jurors will award prizes for first, second and third place consisting of a commemorative plague and cash prizes to the winning designs as follows: 1st prize- $1,500 or Construction of design in Ghana plus a short trip to Ghana for the opening ceremony once construction is completed (in case the winner is not located in Ghana and to a maximum of 1 person); 2nd prize- Construction or $1,000 and 3rd prize- Construction or $500. Honorable mentions may be awarded at the discretion of the jury but will receive no cash prize.
(6) Judging criteria involve the functionality, aesthetics and technical factor to the degree the design response resolves the design problem. Decisions of the jury will be final and binding.

(7) Q&A: Registered participants may submit questions, by email only, to the address: mudhousedesign@mail.com. The deadline for questions is August 5, 2014. The promoter will continually post the replies to all questions received on the competition website, which is www.nkafoundation.org.

(8) Any person entering this contest shall certify and guarantee the organisers that he/she is the sole author of the project and by participating, each contestant grants their free and exclusive consent that all designs and ideas will be published and shared on to inspire others. By entering the competition, all participants agree to all the conditions of participation in the competition.

The body of the jury is to be made public August 31, 2014, at the latest, on the competition website, www.nkafoundation.org.

2014 Mud House Design
serving the underserved communities
www.nkafoundation.org / info@nkafoundation.org
The competition is organized by Nka Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization registered in the USA, Ghana and Burkina Faso. Nka exists to serve underserved communities through focus on the arts, broadly defined to include earth building arts. On the fringes of environmental issues and Open Source concept, Nka Foundation is building an arts village at Abetenim in Ghana to provide stable places for creative people from the region and other countries to live, work, learn and create. Nka does this through investigating and incorporating vernacular materials and methods of construction used in the region to create earth buildings informed by our own design aesthetics.



Building with mud may sound primitive; it is not. It is used in modern day construction and the methods of using it vary in light of its ecological and aesthetic benefits. There are examples of airports, embassies, hospitals, museums, and factories that are built of earth. In fact, it is estimated that half of the global population, approximately three billion people on six continents, lives or works in buildings constructed of earth. The reason is not only because it costs little or no money to build with earth under the feet and is locally available worldwide; mud is a nontoxic material and is acoustically sound. A wall made from raw earth serves as a natural air conditioner; it is comfortable year round. When the mud building is demolished, the earth returns to the soil and can be recycled indefinitely. Today, its ecological and aesthetic benefits attract the attention of an increasing numbers of contemporary architects and eco-builders.

Join us! The competition is a unique opportunity that challenges you to draw on universal design principles and the accumulated knowledge on the best ways to build in tropical climates. Our goal is to develop a contemporary earth architecture tradition for the region. Join us!  Make your name known. Show the world how to reinvent the African mud hut!

Join us! And show the world how to reinvent the African mud house.  Contact: info@nkafoundation.org for application form.


List of Internet Resources 
Literature on Architecture in Central Ghana, which is the project area:
(1) http://www.arcghana.org/architecture_southernghana.htm
(2) http://www.scribd.com/doc/77284395/The-transformation-of-the-urban-structure-of-Kumasi-Studio-Ghana-2010-2011
(3) http://collections.infocollections.org/ukedu/en/d/Jsk02ce/3.4.html
(4) http://lib.ugent.be/fulltxt/RUG01/001/887/157/RUG01-001887157_2012_0001_AC.pdf

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q. What do I need to do participate in the design competition? Pay the entry fee online here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mud-house-design-competition-tickets-10697036123 to get your entry ticket,create a design proposal, and submit your design via mudhousedesign@mail.com

Q. Where is the construction site, is it on in the map? There is no specific site for the project; any township of your choice in the Ashanti Region of Ghana is appropriate. Most townships in Ghana are on the map. In townships in the Ashanti Region, there is public water. Electric power is also by public grid. Most townships in the area do not have public sewage sytem; thus, the sewage pit system is a commom practice.

Q. What are the amenities that are most needed for a single family unit?
Rooms to sleep, kitchen, toilet/bath and a yard are basic.

Q. Can you tell us more about the climate of the region where the project will be constructed?
Ashanti Region of Ghana falls within the warm-humid climatic zone. Air temperatures remain moderately high, between 21 and 32 degrees C, with little variation between day and night. Traditionally, earth-walled courtyard houses are typical with broad overhanging eaves to shade the exterior walls. Pitched roofs covered with corrugated metallic sheets are common in the warm-humid climates of Ghana. Windows are large and fully openable. Fixed windows are not climatically preferable in the warm-humid climates. For additional information, see: http://www.arcghana.org/architecture_southernghana.htm

Can we submit more than one project?
Yes, but each project must have a unique registration number.

Q. Do we need to submit hard copies of the boards?
No, this is a digital competition. You have to send your boards by e-mail to mudhousedesign@mail.com.

Q. Can we submit our boards in Spanish or French?
No, English is the only accepted language.

Q. Can you supply some photos of mud architecture from the region?
You will find plenty of great images of architecture from the region if you google African architecture (Ashanti) or Ashanti architecture.

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