Do me a favour. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, now think of Africa. If you are anything like me you will have seen thatched huts, black baobab trees and silhouetted giraffes crossing the setting sun…
While common sense tells us that the peoples of African nations drive cars, use smart phones and live in modern style houses, the archetypal Africa is the Africa of our dreams.
Traditional African huts were built with purpose and insight. Beginning with a circular foundation made construction easy and suited the use of available materials like clay and branches. They also worked in harmony with the communal living of tribal life. If you have children you know how hard it is to disconnect them from their devices and to get them outdoors. You may even feel the same problem applies to you. In traditional African society, daily activities took place outside in natural, wide open settings. This way of life, along with a generally warm climate, required little in the way of physical shelter. So for this reason African thatch huts were able to be kept small.
Poverty is another stereotype often attributed to hut life yet they were the solution to avoiding homelessness. Due to the widely available raw materials needed to build a thatch hut, keeping people sheltered at night was affordable and avoided crippling debt. Families could easily stay together as space was never an issue and new huts took up little room.
Because of the low cost of building thatched huts layout and arrangement was kept flexible. New huts could easily be added to a homestead for different purposes as they arrive like cooking huts, welcoming huts and communal huts.
Like Australia, Africa can get pretty warm. Having a comfortable place to shelter from heat and to keep food and water cooled was important. Grass thatch and clay are naturally good insulators and but are also porous which is important to maintain air flow.
For this reason, it is not surprising that building African thatch in Australia is increasing in popularity. Thatched huts are not just for Australia’ s wide open spaces, African gazebo style building has spread though gardens in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Australian backyards never felt so cool in summer and outdoor entertaining now has a new unique variety to lend to our love of al fresco living.
Balinese huts have enjoyed a popular addition to Australian backyards but, for the adventurous seeking a new architectural avenue, exotic thatch huts constructed in an African style can be adapted to suit every personal taste. Commonly African or Bali thatch huts are left without walls to allow for maximum capture of ocean breezes. A road less travelled is to take a lesson from traditional African homes and to build clay daubed walls to support your grass thatch roof.
Across the world designers and architects are rediscovering the benefits of clay as a building material. Aesthetically, clay offers versatility in finishing options. It can be highly polished for a modern look or made to look like archeological discovery. Due to its open texture, the painted surface of clay can achieve soft looks that vary according to the preferred lighting. Equally important is clay’s ability to breathe and manage moisture. This means that a hut built with clay walls will be resistant to mould and can keep temperatures inside at a consistent rate.
Firstly, consider what materials you will build your thatch hut with.
These may vary according to the exposure of your building and your local climate within Australia.
Second, decide if you will build your exotic Balinese or African thatch hut on a round, square or rectangular foundation.
A hut with angles may suit some backyards better and a circular hut adds an architectural feature amongst your landscaping.
Next, carefully decide what fixture use will be using to secure your materials.
Will you go down the authentic route and secure with jute style rope or use more conventional galvanised coach bolts for greater strength and duration?
Finally, the pitch of the roof is essential for finding the right balance between rain wicking and shade coverage.
A forty-degree roof is the tried and true method for Australian weather and the most durable in strong winds.
If going down the DIY African Hut route already seems too overwhelming don’t fret! Exotic Thatch offer DIY kits that takes all the effort out of decision making and leaves the fun of construction to you.
Which is what you wanted all along anyway, isn’t it?