How we won that competition? | African House Design Competition by Archstorming

In this article, we continue our series on Competitions.archi, presenting a collection of articles on different architectural competitions. Today, we will be featuring the winners of the African House Design Competition by Archstorming.

The primary objective of this series is to delve into the design process behind each winning project. We are eager to learn from architects and designers about their journey to victory in these competitions. How did they secure their win? We are curious to explore their creative path, from the initial concept and early blueprints to the final comprehensive plan. Additionally, we want to understand the choices they had to make along the way, including the solutions they discarded. Most importantly, we aim to uncover the grand idea behind each project. To achieve this, we will request sketches, drafts, and detailed descriptions, enabling us to fully grasp their techniques and the processes that led to their award-winning designs.

This article forms part of the Architecture Competitions Yearbook 2020, where you can find more captivating stories and inspiring projects similar to the one highlighted below.



The competition launched by Archstorming wanted to find the most suitable project for the construction of a family house in the Karatu District, a rural area located in the north of Tanzania.

Knowing that the first project would have been built, we started focusing on the technological aspects. We spent long time just researching; trying to study all the most suitable and efficient constructing local techniques, natural and local materials. Looking for architectural examples already built in Tanzania and rural houses of the area, trying to figure out how to improve the building process and the use of local materials, also thanks to our little experience. We investigated solutions for improving the crossing ventilation, thermal control, shading and water collection.


Concept evolution. Menabò panels


We wanted our project to be noticed not only for the final architectural result but especially for the building approach we chose, the wise use of resources and materials.

We catalogued all the elements we researched, making simple schemes of the solutions and details we wanted to use and improve in the project.

We tried to observe and learn from the architectural and natural context to better find a design solution that was integrated with the landscape, upgrading the local way of building.




elevations evolution



The project for an architectural competition aimed to be built, takes into account several and different questions in the making of the design. The functional program provided us was a starting point to better understand the needs of a large family living the home space. We have studied the relations among spaces and how these could have been lived in an ideal family daily routine. The separation between the sleeping and the living area to ensure quiet, the idea of shielding the windows of the bedrooms to increase privacy, the openings of the living room to the courtyard to keep continuity, they are all kind of choices made by following these principles. 

Similar approach was used in the next phase, when we started converting those diagrams into volumetric spaces and closed volumes, that actually was the hardest part. We had to balance between architectural shapes and technological choices in order to respect some starting rules we gave ourselves, such as bioclimatic aspects, local materials based technology and money constraints. So, the first diagrammatic idea became a shape to satisfy our programmatic requirements, then it has been refined to meet the architectural language we choose in a continuous feedback loop between the structural and technological aspects. 


Render, sections



We spent time figuring out how to balance those aspects, especially how to find the best technical solution for our idea of space and finally we realized that the best solution was the simplest one in terms of forms and shapes! Simplicity is not a way to find a short and trivial solution but it can be the elegant synthetic outcome for a complex problem.

The design process followed a set of rules based on the functional program and the constructive technologies we wanted to develop. These rules were not conceived to be strictly applied but they change locally in according to the different problems and issues we faced. Each new differentiation became a new opportunity to be explored as a design solution.

This process developed in a flexible way and these adjustments produced a new interesting language, giving us new challenges. This approach added to the project a distinctive character to the building although based on a simple constructive and technologic system.



Render, sections


Before starting to produce the final technical drawings and schemes we figured out what kind of information or step of the building process we wanted to underline, as it was a story we wanted to tell to the jury. We had the same approach with the production of the 3d images, it took time to choose the elements we wanted to show, framed from the right point of view.

For the graphical output of the project we first chose two main colors that guided the final panels, we studied a suitable layout considering what we wanted to present and we made different trials in order to decide the graphic for the designs. The panels don’t have to show everything but they have to present clearly all the design process. The panels speak for yourself and the jury is listening to you through your drawings!


Authors: Marianna Castellari Giovanni Checchia de Ambrosio from Italy



If you would like to ready more case studies like the one above please check our annual publication

 Architecture Competitions Yearbook.

Categories: Articles
Date: February 14, 2024