An American innovation competition invited firms from around the world to reimagine the traditional mud hut architecture of rural Ghana, producing results that are staggeringly beautiful and rapidly changing biased notions of traditional building practices.

Top honours went to the Sankofa House designed by French architecture studio M.A.M.O.T.H.

Named after the sankofa symbol, meaning ‘return and get it’ or ‘look behind to go further’, the single-family unit house is recognisable by its thatched steep roofs, plastered walls, decorative ornaments and large base, inspired by the traditional Ashanti palace. The design follows the traditional typology of Ghanaian courtyard houses which offer a private outdoor area that is shaded and well ventilated while bringing light into the house. The steep roof provides good air circulation and louvered wooden doors and windows ensure cool, fresh air circulates throughout the house.

Eban Aya, the second place winner, by Senegalese architecture firm Atelier Koe, imagines a modern structure that serves the needs of the individual family and their community and has almost no carbon footprint. The design uses the tough bamboo stalks to form clerestory walls that can be left open or filled in. Bamboo also supports a lightweight thatched roof, which extends beyond the walls to create shade. Element-rich soils form walls that provide natural insulation, humidity regulation, natural cooling and suitable acoustics. The ground floor of the building can be used as a family dwelling, studio, commercial space or place of worship. A second floor can easily be added if the family’s finances allow or needs demand it.

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