Designing and Building in Central and East Africa

Burundian Splatter Plaster

Descending from Rwanda's 1000 hillsOn the road from Rwanda to Burundi, the rolling hills dissipate into the long, flat, straight road towards Bujumbura.  The temperature rises, and the mountains of Congo drift away into the distance.  The scenic drive is complimented by the small villages along the way – and the beauty of their architecture.

Almost all of the buildings are made of the same mud brick construction methods and topped with “iron” sheets or thatch.  What sets each home apart from the next though, is the paint – or perhaps more appropriately, the waterproofing.

Calcium Oxide, usually referred to as lime, is a building material used throughout East Africa and is often mixed into cement mortars and plasters to improve water resistance.  When used independently, mixed to 1 part lime : 3 parts sand, “lime only” mortar still retains cementitious qualities at a fraction of the cost of cement mortar.

Home owners in the North West of Burundi have incorporated lime’s qualities into their architecture using a unique method: splatter plaster.  A concentrated mixture of lime + water is applied to the exterior surface of the mud brick construction.  While the most appropriate location for this application would be at the base of the building (most exposed to rain), Burundians have turned this effective waterproofing material into an opportunity for decoration.  Splattered, splotched, dabbed or washed – each building presents a different method, a different design, a different home.

I honestly wish I had more pictures to post here.   Every house along the two hour drive is unique; assembling a collection of architecture that I have not yet seen in other parts of Africa.

One can imagine that for public infrastructure (schools, clinics, markets), such a method could be employed to create a truly contextual design.

. . . . . . . . . . .  What will really get you thinking is the introduction of colored chalks into the mixtures!

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