Christian Long

Magnus Larsson: Turning Dunes into Architecture

In TED Talks on April 15, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Reflection by HAGEN F.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Magnus Larsson:  Turning Dunes into Architecture

In his video Mr. Larsson, tells of an incredible undertaking that he wants to see accomplished. What it would do would be change the inhospitable dunes of the African Sahara into a place of sheltered living.

One of the natural disasters of the desert on African villages just outside the Sahara is the force of desertification. Desertification is the slow movement of desert sands to new locations. Over time sand and the dunes keep moving and completely overrun small villages just outside the desert. This is a serious issue, but since desertification is a gradual process, it does not get much recognition. The sands form the Sahara only move about one meter every day. If desertification was to swallow up three villages every week, then it would be a huge issue and more action would be done to prevent this issue. Since that this is not true, African desertification is left alone, although if left untreated, Africa could suffer greatly. Larsson believes that this issue is very imperative and has a theory as to how to stop desertification.

The wind is what causes the sands to shift because the wind picks up the sand particles and then ‘places’ them somewhere else. One of the ways to stop the movement of the sands is to pace some sort of blocking mechanism. Trees seem to be one of the best ways to do this, and that is what Larsson proposes that we do. If we can stop the movement of the sands then we can stop desertification. If we stop desertification, Africa will benefit and in more ways than one.

What about all the villages that the dunes have already swallowed up? Well the once hazardous dunes, coupled with the trees, can now be beneficial for the African villagers. The idea is to use the dunes as actual houses for the African people because the dunes provide an excellent shape and give good shade. This would require a certain bacteria to feed off of the sand, which in turn would solidify the sand and make the sand stronger. Then there would be areas where the sand was regular and could be excavated away. The tree would provide support for the entire ‘dune house’ and then people could inhabit the dune. This is a revolutionary idea because we are using nature to provide homes for the African people. Not only would it be an efficient use of the desert dunes, but it would also provide two other benefits. The first would be that the cost of the bacteria is not high and only cost about twenty dollars after the initial payment of the first batch, which is only about ninety dollars. Second is that in addition to creating homes, the structure and design of these homes would be incredibly beautiful.

Not only would this project stop the effects of desertification, but also it would help out Africans, whose villages had been swallowed up by the sand dunes. This project would save some of Africa’s agricultural land, but without help, the Sahara could continue to destroy villages in Africa. The project would entail a line of trees from East to West, and along this line the houses would be made. There is no downside to this project, since the only problem had been proven wrong. This problem had been that maybe the bacteria would not stop feeding, but if you take away their food source, then they will stop.

African people, economy, geography, and desert beauty would all benefit from Mr. Larsson’s idea to create homes out of the sand dunes.


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