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Last Updated: Monday, 8 May 2006, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Malawi's football-shaped home
A Dutch architect took the BBC's Aubrey Sumbuleta on a tour of his football-shaped house where he lives in Malawi's commercial capital, Blantyre, with his Malawian wife.

The unique house in Malawi that cannot help attracting attention

Until about five years ago, Jan Sonkie was just an ordinary Dutch national operating in Malawi but now, everybody talks about him.

He has constructed a unique house in the shape of a football.

Standing on a three-metre high brick wall, Sonkie's house has become a tourist attraction, as many do not believe that human beings stay in the house.

Drinking den?

"Many people thought this was a drinking den and that we were sleeping in the normal houses on the other side of the fence," says Thokozani Sonkie, Jan's Malawian wife.

Dining room and lounge in the Sonkies football-shaped house
Visitors are always surprised that the interior looks 'normal'

She says a lot of people including women normally come around to take a look at the house.

"They want to take a look at my kitchen and bedroom because they don't believe a house of this shape can have these things inside," she says adding, "after taking a look, those with cameras take pictures of the house."

Something different

Why construct a football house?

Jan Sonkie an architect by profession says he wanted to do something different from the rest of the buildings in Malawi.

"After having a good think, I settled for a football-shaped house because of the plot that I was allocated," he says.

Sonkie says the four-storey house that has at least a room on each floor is warm during winter and cold during summer because of its building specifications.

Jan Sonkie looking out the living room window
Maybe I am crazy but I have a passion for football
Jan Sonkie

"The outside is all metal and the inside all wooden hence the self control of the weather."

Crazy

What do people say about his idea?

Sonkie says that a lot of people could not believe him when he hatched plans to construct the football house.

"Maybe I am crazy but I have a passion for football, although my busy construction schedule does not allow me sometimes to follow the game."

Sonkie says he decided to build his unique house in Malawi because he just likes Africa and would like to stay on the continent forever.

The Sonkies stay alone in the house. They don't have children and so the rest of the rooms are left for visitors.


If you'd like to comment on this story please use the form below.

Your comments:

I know why the Dutch have not won the World Cup
Yohoney Mkolongo, Malawi
I now know why the Dutch have not won the World Cup. This is not like the sort of footballs you see in Russia. It is like a cardboard box with square edges. I don't think it would bounce and it might hurt one's foot if kicked.
Dmitri Gregori Hunslavski, Gavrilov Yam, Russian Federation

When I first saw it, I thought Sonke was just wasting his resources but now I believe that there is potential in this man. We are not behind in Africa. Keep it up.
Yohoney Mkolongo, Zomba, Malawi

Brilliant and instructive. It shows a man making full and good use of the little land he has to re-create his dream of a house, without having to rue or curse his luck, and points the way forward for African professionals
Olawale Lawanson Alabi, Abuja , Nigeria

Good job on the house, but could have done a bit better on the football shape. Looks a bit more like that thing Sean Connery powered through the water to get to the oil rig in Diamonds Are Forever.
Philip Heller, Glenside PA, US

Now this is what money and a dream can do. And, oh yes, the aspect of standing out in the crowd and being counted
Sonnile Phiri, Lusaka, Zambia

Why didn't the Scottish Parliament hire him?
Neil Small, Scotland
Great building! Now why didn't the Scottish Parliament hire him to design their building?
Neil Small, Scotland, UK

This time something good is coming out of Africa, as news for the BBC.
Wakwinji, South Africa

I hope a giant footballer won't emerge from nowhere and kick the house, mistaking it for a ball!
Christian Atam, Maroua, Cameroon

I am a journalist from Indonesia and I am also a big fan of football, so reading the article about your house makes me envious. Someday, hopefully, I can also make a house like yours. Good luck, and never let football die!
Ruri Hargiyono, Batam, Indonesia

As a Malawian I am proud of you, the Sonkies, because you are attracting tourists and contributing to the development of our country. We want you to do even more than that, carry on!
Victor Kwenda, Dallas, USA/Malawi

2 words ... 'uber creative'
Faith Kachoka, London, UK

I feel sorry for the Sonke family for being allocated a very small plot. However, I cherish their brilliant idea and innovations. Even the authorities could not believe that the family could come up with something that is a tourist attraction centre admired by the whole world!
Baza Dimba, Lilongwe, Malawi

The house works!
Bobby Anderson, Scotland, UK
The house works! We had the privilege of dinner with Jan and Thoko in Feb 06 and it was a great space to sit and chat. Some of his other work can be seen at Blantyre Mission CCAP and the renovations at Likhubula House on Mt Mulanje.
Bobby Anderson, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

I am very happy that you have depicted something positive about our country, Malawi, the warm heart of Africa. I feel very bad when all I hear about Malawi is dark and very negative. By searching the country profile of Malawi as depicted by your website one would not think of getting anything interesting once he comes to Malawi which is not the case. Malawi is not all negative. We are a peaceful and positive nation.
Hastings Chiwasa, Lilongwe, Malawi

I envy the Sonkies house for sure. Every time I pass by the house I still keep puzzling about it. I wish never knew it is open to view. I guess one of these days I will request to take a look inside. I hope Jan will invent more of these architectural wonders and that more Malawian architects will follow this exciting path of creative in Malawi.
Steven Bernard Perete, Blantyre

In the last few decades since most African states attained their independence, there has been a lot of aping of the western culture in the name of civilization. This has resulted in the loss of the rich culture, which the young Africans now have to learn just like foreigners. Yes the African architecture is dying but not to extinction for the young people are now realizing its uniqueness thus embracing it.
Kibiru, Nairobi, Kenya

This is about a man living his dream and I think it's wonderful. It's about freedom of creativity and I applaud the authorities in Blantyre for allowing Jan to build such a beautiful and creative home. He certainly would have had difficulties in attaining permission from urban planners in Holland.
James Ololo, Brussels, Belgium

Hexsect each panel and you have a very typical geodesic dome for a house. It's nice, I like all the windows on the middle floors, wish there were a few more on the bottom and very top - even if it was just for strip lighting. But it doesn't seem to be all that special. There really are a lot of other more unique homes, some of them looking very plain and rigid yet being even more environmentally couture.
John Digguns, Portland, OR, USA

It's one of the wonderful pictures ever seen, if I can ask Mr & Mrs. Sonkie, can they build for their children a football shoe house just beside that house?
Dadisho Khnasho Sourisho

Sonkie, that is a brilliant idea to show that Africa is developing. Keep it up
John Sewule Toure, Freetown, Sierra Leone

I've seen houses made from farm silos, barns, breweries and buses. Not so odd really. This one reminds me of a geodesic dome. I love the "old" looking European architecture with steeper roofs, dormer windows and the like, with the hi-tech elements hidden. Fortunately this style is making a comeback in the U.S.
Jeremy Mason, Atlanta, USA

That's just fab!
Lape, New York City

Congratulations to the Sonkies. How could I get the plan and get to build the same house here in Zambia? How much could it cost me? Kind regards, Ed Bwalya
Ed Bwalya, Lusaka, Zambia

There are a couple of houses built years ago in Toronto, just off the Richmond Street exit from the DVP that are basically the same thing. They look like big squares on a pedestal (something to do with property size and useable space).
Anonymous, Toronto, Canada

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