MMA Architects Wins Big Prize For House Made of Sandbags

We wrote earlier about Luyanda Mpahlwa and his Sandbag Houses by MMA Architects; it was one of the entries in a competition teaming South African architects with international designers to pioneer new affordable housing systems. MMA went it alone, and built an affordable structure that "requires no tools or advanced construction knowledge and can be built for slightly more than $6,000." Now they have won the Curry Stone Award of $100,000, which honours "innovative achievements in humanitarian architecture and design."

The building system uses a wood frame to define the form of the house, infilled with bags of sand to give it solidity and thermal mass. The are called "Eco-beams."


Luyanda Mpahlwa of MMA architects

Matt Chaban writes in the Architects Paper:

"From the jury's point of view, it was both a conventional and unconventional firm doing conventional and unconventional work," David Mohney, secretary for the prize, said. "They saw it as an inspiration to other conventional firms that they could start doing unconventional work themselves, that they can bring a high level of design and comfort to a project that doesn't usually have access to it."

To call MMA unconventional could be considered an understatement. As one of only a handful of black firms in the country, they have long struggled to get work. "Old prejudices die hard," Mphahlwa said. "Some people take one look at me and do not believe I can build them a house." The firm took a number of government commissions out of a sense of civic pride and duty but also because they had little choice. Thanks to the success of those projects, including embassies in Berlin and Adis Ababa, they have been able to afford more humanitarian work.

As a testament to MMA's commitment to that work, when asked what he would do with his share of the money, Mpahlwa said he would probably buy a few more 10X10 houses and send some underprivileged kids to architecture school. On top of the two he has already sent." via Philip Proefrock at Green Building Elements
Other 10x10 competition entries

More Of The 10x10 Houses
Sandbag Houses by MMA Architects
Runner-ups in TreeHugger:
Sean Frayne for The Windbelt: Third-World Wind Power
Forest Rising: Marjetica Potrc

Tags: Appropriate Technology | Architects | Design Competitions | South Africa