The evolution of earthen houses

For centuries, architecture in Burkina Faso, a country near the equator, has been characterized by naturally-cooled mud houses with delicate decorations. Recent access to factory products has made many natives to turn to concrete houses. But mud is still used and is recognized as a traditional solution to the modern problem of rising temperatures.

Longuero village
Longuero village

Villages like Langouérou are a mix of old and new styles. Home areas can be seen in different colors.

Women’s residence

Mud houses of the people of Kasna

According to custom, spouses sleep separately. Double circular houses for women have entrances to keep out heat and intruders.

Residence of men

Houses of the people of Kasna

The rectangular houses where men traditionally sleep have large doors and thick, cooling walls.

Newer elements

Mud houses of the people of Kasna

In the 1970s, villagers began to use new materials in mud houses, and wives slept under the same roof. Newer homes are easier to build and maintain, but harder to keep cool.

The mud houses of Mardan Kasna

Traditionally, roofs are made of mud and are also used for storage and sleeping. New metal roofs are easy to install, but they don’t dissipate heat and aren’t versatile.

Mud houses of the people of Kasna

Traditional doors are short (115 cm – about half the height of a standard door) and often made of wood. In recent years, standard-sized metal doors, which can be bought ready-made in the city, have entered the village architecture.

Mud houses of the people of Kasna

Manguelos are square buildings with thick walls made of mud bricks. The same bricks are used in modern mud houses, but they are laid across to speed up the construction process; As a result, the walls are thinner and less insulated.

Mud houses of the people of Kasna

Traditional houses can be dark inside. They get light from small openings at the top of the wall, but in modern homes, windows are more common.

building a house

Mud houses of the people of Kasna

Local clay-rich soil is mixed with water, then formed into bricks or balls.

Mud houses of the people of Kasna

Layers of clay balls are placed on top of each other. Height is measured in units of ball or brick layers. Construction is a collective effort.

Mud houses of the people of Kasna

To increase resistance, grass or cow dung can be added to the flower. It may take up to three days for the bricks to dry.

Mud houses of the people of Kasna

Building dimensions are estimated using body-based criteria. For a manguelo, approximately 12 layers of bricks are required, which are placed on top of each other with mud mortar. A manguelo can take up to two months to make.

Multifunctional roof

Mud houses of the people of Kasna

Wooden beams support an earthen slab that isolates the structure. A roof can be used for drying food, storage and sleeping on warm nights. Modern houses, which use less labor and resources, are built faster, but have fewer uses.


Mud houses of the people of Kasna

The walls are covered with gum or fat taken from fruit trees or oil palm trees. This protects them from the water of rainy seasons, but the gum and fat must be applied every year.


The walls are painted with natural colors; such as black graphite and red iron-rich soils. Villagers use guinea owl feathers to draw designs and the work is usually completed before the rainy season begins in May.

Mud houses of the people of Kasna

foreign design

The walls are decorated with rich symbols. for example:

  • The rows of triangles represent alkaline gourds.
  • Lizards are a symbol of life.
  • Crocodiles are sacred.

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