Footloose German kid builds an inspiring brick dome home for an orphanage in Kenya

Categories: Inspiration


When Torsten Kremser met Mama Dolfine, she had lost her 14- and 27-year-old sons within one year, fallen into deep grief and depression, and then climbed out of hell to build heaven in the form of a new orphanage. After living with "Mama" in Kenya for a week, Kremser was so inspired that he raised 700 euros, built showers and a classroom equipped with blackboards and a computer, and bought a few chickens to provide food. Then she lost her husband. At that point, Kremser and friends founded Cheap Impact to raise funds that would help the 62-year-old widow finance the Korando Educational Center, now a licensed orphanage and educational center in Kisian. Already 500 children—many of whom lost their parents to HIV/AIDS—have been given a second chance at life. The four-domed home built with locally-sourced brick will shelter volunteers who have come to lend a hand.

“I was overwhelmed by her selflessness and till [sic] today, I haven’t met anyone close to her,” Torsten tells Inhabitat about meeting Mama Dolfine. “Since then I supported her whenever I could throughout the years.”

Having no experience as an architect, Torsten got his inspiration for the dome home from Steve Areen’s project in Thailand, except he was required to have an engineer vet the design to ensure it was up to code. They carefully measured out the dimensions, dug trenches for the foundation, built 11 base columns and a strip foundation wall and then back filled it all with Murram. Torsten says he would have liked to use more sustainable materials but settled for the brick instead, since mud and straw are not only frowned upon for being cheap, but in the case of certain official buildings in parts of Kenya, unlawful to use. Despite this, the home still has a slew of eco-credentials.


Torsten and his team of workers decided to build a 4-dome home for 8 volunteers at a time. Two of the domes are split into two bedrooms and a shared bathroom each, while the central dome accommodates the living room and social area. The final dome acts as an open kitchen facing the living room, and the ablutions are in a separate dome with a rooftop balcony. Grey water from the kitchen and bathrooms is used to irrigate a food forest outside with a permaculture design, water is solar-heated, and all of the home’s LED lights will be powered by solar energy. Strategically placed large windows combined with skylights ensure optimum natural light and ventilation, and eventually, Torsten plans to build a biogas digester in order to harvest manure from cows and pigs for use as renewable cooking fuel. Ideally, the orphanage will be completely self-sustaining in the long-term.

For now, it costs about 6,500 euro each month to keep the orphanage and school operational, so they could use some help. A self-described location-independent entrepreneur with big dreams, Torsten put a lot of thought into creating a design that would captivate an international audience.

“The special design of the building is meant to trigger attention world wide. To stick out of the crowd,” Torsten says. “We are giving this center a unique landmark and people from all over the world will learn about Mamas [sic] incredible work here and hopefully we will find the support needed to turn this place into a sustainable, lasting educational institution with space for growth.”


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