Francis Kéré and others are attempting to muddy up the rising use of concrete in West Africa

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Architects, officials, and villagers confirm the trend: People are discarding traditional materials, mostly mud, in favor of concrete, as soon as they can afford it. As living standards increase making concrete more accessible, some of the world’s hottest, poorest landscapes are rapidly morphing from brown to cinder block grey.

Architects like Francis Kéré have been attempting to buck the trend of using concrete by experimenting with upgraded versions of terrestrial materials like mud bricks that simultaneously provide tools for community-building in developing countries like Burkina Faso.

Francis Kéré and others are attempting to muddy up the rising use of concrete in West Africa

Facade detail of Kéré Architecture’s Burkina Institute of Technology. Photo: Jaime Herraiz.

The ancient material is much more heat-adaptable when compared to concrete, which is increasingly valuable in an area whose number of extreme heat days is expected to rapidly increase over the next three decades due to climate change.

“It’s a matter of time, it’s a matter of belief. It’s a matter of political will,” Kéré, told National Geographic. “But there’s a lot of accumulated knowledge now. In 10 years, you’re going to be surprised by our success.”

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