“La Maison Senegal” by El Pan del Mono: Education and vernacular architecture for economic and social sustainability in Dindefelo, Senegal


“This project stems from the need to find streams of work that are suited to participation in social and community life of the development of architecture, and peaceful coexistence between-tradition-architecture environment.

In September 2013 we began a journey that would last over a year and still continues. We went to Senegal to work with the Spanish headquarters of the Jane Goodall Institute and start researching and exploring a society that had much to do with these ways of working. We discovered in Dindefelo (1500 inhabitants village located southeast of the country), a series of very interesting connections between social life and architectural and environmental changes in the region. Changes that the guys from Jane Goodall Institute have already being setting for five years, when they began the hard work of conservation in the region, with the creation of the Natural Reserve Dindefelo.

Lamina 01_ La llegada

Lamina 02_ Aprendizaje y experimentación

After a period of close coexistence with the locals, we realized the situation the interior regions of the country where passing by. In Dindefelo, as in the rest of the population, are observed material shortages that have to do with the quality of housing and public services and basic supplies such as electricity, water, waste collection, etc. The buildings have been evolved into building systems accepted in a short period as the “modernization” of cities, but they are built without any specific expertise and without the minimum requirements of stability, climate comfort, etc. The families live year-round from agriculture and livestock, as small local grocery stores and sewing workshops too, but there is a large part of the population, especially young men and adults who are in situation of unemployment.

Then we began work documenting the region, traditional architectures that are still preserved, systems of social hierarchy, country life, family structures, etc. And with that we raised the idea of a possible recovery of ancient building systems that we found very interesting while easily accessible thanks to the acquisition of materials. Gradually the fieldwork and graphic documentation of the “existing” became materials testing, termite search to analyze the composition of their lands, mixtures adobe brick making, simple compression tests, etc. It was in this period that began to take shape a possible idea of PCF to our final carrier degree.


Casa Familiar

Building typologies in southern Senegal_Pathologies adobe buildings and thatch:


From that moment we focus on the option of offering our skills and knowledge in the field of architecture (although still are few) to solve, or help solving, the constructive deficiencies we observed. And above all, to help promote something that had been puzzling us from the beginning: the transmission of knowledge in the “Neighbor to Neighbor” immediate environment and exploration of new building systems. We believed that there should be resources to restore and improve the vernacular buildings, which were based on the mix between the use of ancient skills and a current research and practice of new possibilities.

Planteamiento del Proyecto

Lamina 06_ Cursos en marcha

Earthen construction Manual:

The idea was based on the development of five building workshops where were mixed the technologies used for years in these regions and new data that were obtained from various trial and error testing, examination of ground composition in the university laboratory and get dirty constantly with mixtures of soil and other materials. Here they played a key role enlightening interviews we did to various local builders, who were more than willing to shed light on the different ways of seeing, building and understanding the architecture of the region.

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We believe that the creation of courses building workshops allow the incorporation of professionals in the construction sector with specific training to perform this activity as jobs directly related to teaching, administration and research in the field construction and management of natural resources.

The direct results of these workshops are education and employment, but also improve local buildings, stopping the improvised and precarious solutions currently they have (constructions in cement and zinc plates), which constitute a danger to the population and a contradiction of the bioclimatic capabilities of housing for the extreme climate to which it is subjected.

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The final step was to soak up information on cooperation and submit a report to apply for funding from the Cooperation Department of the University of Alicante, awarded each year you help cooperation projects (you can see all the information presented on the blog of the project. This could not have happened without the help of Jose Carrasco, who supported us as supervisor and project coordinator, and later with the accession of Jorge Bermejo and Ana Enguita, colleagues who form a group of researchers interested in testing bio materials like cane structures, and would be responsible for raising tools pre-designing open-source technology adapted to the resources available in the target region.

That’s how our final project became, in October of this year, another trip to Senegal, this time to carry out the first of five workshops that we had raised through the awarding of the grant by the UA. And in the formal creation of our working group we have called El Pan del Mono, which has a website where we will publish the results of the workshop and subsequent adventures in which we are already thinking about to embarking on.

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(+info: blog lamaisonsenegalaise)

(+info: elpandelmono.com)