close close
previous project
previous project

The Nubian Vault

Traditional clay roofs across Africa

Since 2001, builders Thomas Granier and Séri Youlou have successfully reintroduced the Nubian vault building technique to Africa. Their not-for-profit association aims to develop the widespread use of constructions of this type, promoting knowledge-sharing among local artisans.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - The Nubian Vault
© Voute Nubienne

An ancient technique used for millennia in Upper Egypt, the Nubian vault uses clay and brick architecture as an alternative to wooden and corrugated iron roof structures – materials that are both costly and fragile in a region where ‘70 per cent of the population have no access to decent housing’ (UN Habitat, 2006), and where the number of people is set to double by 2020. ‘To date, 1,308 Nubian vaults have been built in Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and Zambia,’ says the association’s development director, Antoine Horellou. ‘Demand for this type of construction has grown by 36 per cent year on year. The Nubian vault technique delivers an attractive, robust, cool 25-m2 home in fifteen days, saving four trees, equivalent to two tonnes of CO2.’

The Fondation d’entreprise Hermès has supported the association since 2008. Following this initial phase, The Nubian Vault now aims to extend training in the technique to as many artisan-entrepreneurs as possible, through a network of master-builders and apprentices. ‘Two hundred and fifty builders have already been trained, and now it’s up to them to share their knowledge, so that people can build their own homes. The Nubian vault technique should become an integral part of local custom,’ says Thomas Granier.

next project
next project