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Saharan guesthouse featuring traditional materials completed by Fiona Mckie Design

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The £25,000 Moon Building, constructed from a traditional Egyptian building material, has been entered into AJ Small Projects – which closes for entries this Friday

Comprising a workshop, bedroom, bathroom and storeroom, the Moon Building is an outbuilding on a small family-run date and olive farm, located 5km to the west of Siwa Town on the edge of the Sahara Desert in Egypt. It has been constructed from kersheef – a local technique employing an amalgam of rock salt, sand and mud.

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Architect’s view 

The extreme climate means the thermodynamics of the building are crucial. The external walls are built with kersheef, a traditional building material unique to this area of Egypt: it is an amalgam of rock salt, sand and mud. The thick kersheef walls suit the climate, giving coolness in the heat and warmth in the cold.

The curves of the Moon Building originated in my understanding of the fact that mud buildings, built in layers, prefer curves. The sandstone foundation walls are embedded in the desert sand and then built up above the ground. The voids between the walls are filled with sand and mud, creating a kind of raft, which supports the building.

The geometry of the building is two concentric curves organised from a central point with the subdividing perpendicular walls arranged on the radius, giving a sense of continuity and progression as you move through the spaces. This formal geometry contrasts with the irregular flow of the undulating ceiling formed by the olive wood beams, which progresses and unfolds throughout. The building is orientated to maximise the benefits of the curves, with the large north terrace opening up for northerly breezes and shade in the hot months; while the south terrace is held in the shorter concave curve, giving protection from the wind and warmth from the southern sun in the colder months.

The vaulted stairway follows the north curve round and up to the lime-plastered roof where the shape of the building and the vast horizontal landscape is revealed.

Fiona Mckie

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Project data 

Start on site May 2014
Completion March 2018
Gross internal floor area 93m2 
Procurement route Local labour, weekly agreement
Construction cost  £24,768
Architect Fiona Mckie Design
Client Fiona Mckie
Services engineer Ahmed Electrics (all solar powered)
QS Ali Soliman
Main contractor Saleh Halili
Selected subcontactor and supplier Hamza Ignaoui
Professional team Gabre Hussein, Hag Ahmed

AJ Small Projects

The AJ Small Projects Awards celebrate completed projects with a contract value of £250,000 and under. The much-loved fixture of the architectural calendar has been sponsored for the eighth year by Marley.

Click here to view a selection of over 150 projects already entered into the 2019 awards. You can submit entries until the extended deadline of 1 February 2019. Good luck!

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