Villa Eila is the house built by a wealthy and cultivated Finnish woman, Eila Kivekäs, in the town of Mali, set in the Futa Djalon Mountains of the Republic of Guinea. It was there that, in 1989, Eila Kivekäs founded a non-governmental organization (NGO), Indigo, which aimed to develop traditional crafts and to assist with the general improvement of the living conditions of the population. The house was designed by the Finnish architects Heikkinen-Komonen who combined their native familiarity with timber structures with local materials, improved using simple technological advances. The house was the second of five projects designed by these architects for this client using a similar programme and materials.
The project evolved around two major issues: the exceptionally picturesque qualities of the site and the requirement to use local materials, improved by means of simple technologies.
The house is set on a long, narrow platform (6.7 by 33.5 metres), terraced along the contour lines of a 25 per cent west-facing incline, which meets the slope on the eastern side. It is raised about one metre above the yard on the western side. The building layout is similar to that of the dispensary: a continuous covering of 200 square metres spreads across the platform and shelters separate walled-in areas of 76 square metres with shaded areas (porches) in between. These porches act as areas for most everyday activities.
The walled-in spaces correspond to a very simple programme and their function is formally identified: round volumes at either end of the complex are guest rooms, each measuring 10 square metres; a quadrangular volume, measuring 13 square metres, is for services (storage, latrine and bathing area); a rectangular structure is the owner's living-sleeping area comprising a 17-square-metre bedroom connected to a common room, measuring 26 square metres, with a counter and cupboards at one end for the preparation of meals. The continuous roof extends over these volumes by 1.2 metres at the front and the back and is 40 centimetres higher than the round rooms. The front covered area, which faces west, is the main circulation route for all the rooms. The back gives access to the latrine and bathrooms and is sheltered from the adjacent slope by a continuous bamboo screen, which turns the passage into a corridor. Behind the screen, a well-defined ditch separates the platform from the slope and collects run-off rainwater.
Climatic comfort is provided by the shade of the continuous roof over the detached volumes, by the properties of the wall and roof materials, and by cross-ventilation at roof level, with air circulation between the tiles and the straw ceilings. The bamboo screen on the eastern side was also intended as a climate-control device, to filter the morning sun and wind and rain.