Africa and the Middle East
Conical Stick Houses of the Hamer People, Ethiopia
Endangered architecture: Hamer Woreda in Ethiopia, contains three unique architectures: 1) the Hamer field hut, a very rare example of a fully conical dwelling within the African continent, 2) village huts built by women, and 3), village huts built by men. Each type exhibits a type of coded system found rarely in architecture, in that locals who can read the buildings know the status of the occupant (and their children), through adaptations made to the building itself. All three types are short lived ephemeral architectures that last little more than ten years without being substantially rebuilt. However, change is coming quickly to southern Ethiopia with the building of a major road that is leading to industrialisation and modernisation of the whole region. Consequently, the conical field shelters are now rarely built, and most are disappearing from the landscape.
Aims: The project aims to record three structures within one community along with their compounds, and to map the village layouts. This project will considerably increase the depth of detail known about these architectural types, as it will not only explore the finished form of the building but also document the construction materials, management, tool use and patterns of occupation of the whole village area.
Project Lead: Gordon Clarke
Collaborators: Linda Hurcombe, Takele Merid Afessa
Location of Research: Hamer Woreda, Ethiopia
Host Institution: University of Exeter
Type of Grant: Small grant
Documenting the Endangered Reed Architecture of the Iraqi Marshes
Endangered architecture: The reed architecture of Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq represents the survival of one of the oldest known building traditions in the world. The most distinctive architectural form is the Mudhif; a large meeting hall, usually commissioned by a sheikh and used for community gatherings and the entertainment of guests. These halls are made entirely of reed, consisting of a long tunnel-like structure formed by large reed arches bound together under tension. Between these arches, woven reed mats form the walls and roofs of the mudhif, while the end walls often feature elaborately woven designs. In-depth knowledge of the various reeds which grow in the Iraqi marshes are also essential as different types of reeds are needed for different structural components. Having barely survived the deliberate draining of the marshes in the 1990s, the Marsh Arab communities now face an even greater threat; climate change and dam building, which have reduced the flow of water into the marshes to a critical level.
Aims: The project will seek to document the reed structures, the method of construction and the specialist knowledge required. The latter will include issues such as what sort of reed is used for what part of the building, what time of year building takes place and how the work is organised. The buildings will be recorded through photogrammetry (drone and handheld) and through the production of detailed diagrammatic records.
Project Lead: Mary Shepperson
Collaborators: Jassim al-Asadi
Location of Research: Iraq
Host Institution: University of Liverpool
Collaborating organisation: Nature Iraq
Type of Grant: Small grant
Mudhif near Chibayish, Iraq
Photographer: M. Shepperson 2016