Red Pepper House by Urko Sanchez Arquitectos


“Located on the island of Lamu towards the north end of the town, the plot is immersed in vegetation and bordered by the beach on its southeast slopes. The forest, consisting mainly of mangroves, provides very few open spaces in between and hosts an abundance of chirping birds. These natural features enable the development of a building, whose design creates a harmonious dialogue with its surroundings. Without being completely isolated from the local population, its location provides a space where privacy is safeguarded by the nature that surrounds it.”


“Red Pepper House was presented a chance to create a form of organic architecture that had a balance of traditional craft and modern requirements. The client had great respect for the environment and wished that the design process preserved the forest as much as possible. Likewise, the construction process and eventually the running of the building were to share the same attribute.

The challenge is to give response to very specific requests not specifically related to the local tradition and to do it using the local construction systems, workmanship, and sense of space, looking towards the future yet having one leg grounded in the past.

The idea is to respect all the big trees on site and take advantage of them to create a disposition of open/closed and sunny/shadowy areas. The footprint of the house is the result of building only in the areas not occupied by trees. This footprint corresponds to the area covered by the roof structure with no walls, the only enclosed spaces are the bedrooms which are linked together under the continuous roof.”



“The architecture incorporates different levels of closure that create a transition between indoors and outdoors.

Arriving to the house from Lamu we find small coral stone masonry houses on the sandy beach creating a scattered urban pattern. This layout and material is used for the setting out of the bedrooms, the only fully enclosed spaces in the house, presenting a sense of security and intimacy.

In the Swahilli architecture the makuti roof is used as a structure over the roof of the house or detached as a temporary construction. Here it has been enlarged to cover the dispersed layout of the rooms under a single space protecting from sun and rain, In this external spaces one can share a close connection with nature.

The relation between the traditional elements has been altered to meet the client’s requests.”





“Cross ventilation by having windows or large open spaces on the windward and lee sides of the building allows airflow across the space. This naturally cools the room. Winds passing over the sea will bring a cool breeze into the house and the lack of energy usage in this process makes the building very sustainable.

The materials used play a part in keeping the building cool. The traditional makuti roof provides a barrier from the sun and is also a good thermal insulator. The coral stones used for construction share the same quality keeping the rooms cool.”


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