Friday, February 25, 2011

House No. 56: Rondavel

House No. 56: Rondavel
ink, colored pencil, and watercolor on paper, digital layout
8.5 in. x 11 in.
056/365; 02/25/11

Rondavels are found throughout southern Africa including South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Botswana.

The structure of a rondavel is pretty amazing because the roof has no struts or beams supporting it and is built without internal braces. There are no seams, joists, or rafters up there, like there are in a gabled roof.

Radial poles, called principals in architecture lingo, are supported by circular purlins, which are concentric ring-shaped supports that form the conical shape of the roof. It's kind of like a giant hoop skirt, but without a person holding it up from the inside. (see image below)

The roof is thatched over wooden poles made of tree limbs and sewn with grass rope.

Traditionally, the floors and walls of these roundhouses are fortified with a processed mortar made of earth, sand, and dung that strengthens the earthen floor and stone walls with a firm and smooth coating.

The houses are not just green and sustainable, they are beautiful too. The exterior of the walls are oftentimes decorated with carvings, paintings, and mosaics.

Verified information of rondavels is not as prevalent as other house types that I have been researching, but the essay by Gerald Steyn, The Indigenous Rondavel – a Case for Conservation, has an excellent bibliography that got me started.


  1. It just dawned on me that this set would make a wonderful Montessori classroom work! Many of their works are laminated cards featuring photos or illustrations, plus additional cards with the name, and still more cards with descriptive information. The work is then to lay them all out matched up correctly: picture, name, description.

  2. I stayed in several places styled like this when I was in South Africa. They are indeed beautiful and I would go to sleep at night staring up at the thatched ceilings. I'll email you my pictures so you can see them.

  3. I just wanted to say: Thank you, Mady! You always teach me something new.