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House of a Thousand Knots: The Bentwood Architecture of Orma Women Builders

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Semi-nomadic life in Kenya’s Tana River Delta required the development of a unique house design, a high structure made from local natural materials, with a raised bed that could “protect the occupants from the occasional flooding.”

This Institute of Nomadic Architecture video documents how these traditional tiny homes have been made for generations. Around twenty Orma women builders teamed up to complete the bentwood structure in three days.

weaving the frame
building together
Nomad Architecture films building projects around the globe, “sustainable houses built out of ancient traditions which fit perfectly to the ecologies and cultures of their occupants.” From the video’s caption:

“All the natural materials are gathered from within a few kilometers of the village. Essentially it is a bentwood frame lashed together into a gridshell. The whole structure is strong as it is a natural parabolic dome. The area is undergoing rapid change as modern materials and electricity are being brought in, so we were very fortunate to be able to record this building before it disappears completely.”

covering the top
finishing the top
Materials include danisa tree poles, doum palm frond ties, water reed mats, liana vines, and bast fiber. The curtain-style doorways allow the breeze in while discouraging mosquitoes. Bamboo mats from the market help make the raised bed’s foundation.

How many knots do the women tie into the structure to make the home so strong?

mini celebration
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β€’Β Amish Barn Raising: Building a barn in one day
β€’Β How to build a grass hut
β€’ Making a celt hatchet and an A-frame hut
β€’ Making Lime Bast Rope
β€’ Nomadic Nenet people build a chum (yurt) in the Siberian Arctic Winter

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