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Ronald Rael
Princeton Architectural Press | New York
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Editors: Linda Lee and Dorothy Ball

Acquisitions Editor: Clare Jacobson Library of Congress
Designer: Paul Wagner Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Special thanks to: Nettie Aljian, Sara Bader, Rael, Ronald, 1971
Nicola Bednarek, Janet Behning, Becca Casbon, Earth architecture / Ronald Rael. 1st ed.
Penny (Yuen Pik) Chu, Russell Fernandez, p. cm.
Pete Fitzpatrick, Wendy Fuller, Jan Haux, Includes bibliographical references.
Clare Jacobson, Aileen Kwun, Nancy Eklund Later, ISBN 978-1-56898-767-5 (alk. paper)
Laurie Manfra, Katharine Myers, 1. Earth construction. 2. Architecture, Modern20th
Lauren Nelson Packard, Jennifer Thompson, century. 3. Architecture, Modern21st century. I. Title.
Arnoud Verhaeghe, Joseph Weston, and TH1421.R34 2008
Deb Wood of Princeton Architectural Press 721.0442dc22
Kevin C. Lippert, publisher 2008010582
This book is dedicated to my parents, Christina Casias Rael, whose wisdom and character
was shaped in a small adobe house built by her grandfather in the isolated village of
La Florida, Colorado, and Miguel Arturo Rael (19452008), an honest and hardworking builder
who left a legacy of adobe, wood, steel, and concrete in the San Luis Valley, Colorado.
Anyone who has met them knows how special they were and are.
8  Introduction

16  Chapter 1
Rammed Earth

20  Rammed Earth Houses 52 National Wine Centre 92 A

 mankora Bhutan Resorts
Jourda & Perraudin Partenaires Grieve Gillette and Cox Architects Kerry Hill Architects

24  Bowali Visitor Information 56 Eden Project Visitor Centre 96 Red Hill Residence
Centre Grimshaw Architects Christopherchris Architecture
Glenn Murcutt & Associates
and Troppo Architects 60 Sihlhlzli Sports Facility 100 Back 40 House
Storage Sheds and Gallo Powell Consortium
28  Low Compound Chronometry Tower
Jones Studio Roger Boltshauser Architekten 104 NkMip Desert Interpretive
30  Ooi House 64 Split House Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden
Kerry Hill Architects Atelier FCJZ
108 Residence 1
32 P
 almer-Rose House 68 Cemetery Extension and Drachman Design-Build Coalition
Rick Joy Architects Chapel of Rest
36 Poll House, Margaret River
Gary Marinko Architects 72 Center of Gravity Foundation Hall
Predock Frane Architects
40 Thurgoona Campus of
Charles Sturt University 76 Residence at Meteor Vineyards
Marci Webster-Mannison Cutler Anderson Architects

44 C
 hapel of Reconciliation 80 Vineyard Residence
Reitermann and Sassenroth John Wardle Architects

48 Masons Bend Community 84 Rosie Joe House

Center Design Build BLUFF
Rural Studio
88 Zousei Architecture
Manabu + Nez/Loco Architects

112  Chapter 2 156  Chapter 3 178  Chapter 4
Mud Brick Compressed Earth Block Molded Earth

116 La Luz Community 160 Villa Eila 182 Baninajar Refugee Camp
Antoine Predock Architect Heikkinen-Komonen Architects Housing
Nader Khalili
120 Matthews Residence 164 Kahere Eila Poultry
Will Bruder + Partners Farming School 184 Waldorf Kindergarten

Heikkinen-Komonen Architects Planungsbro fr kologisches

122 The Eco House Bauen Kassel
Arkitekt Sverre Fehn AS 168 N3
de Paor Architects 186 House of Earth and Light
126 Camacho Residence Marwan Al-Sayed Architects Ltd.
The Adobe Alliance 170 Center for the Blind
Taller de Arquitectura Mauricio Rocha 190 Extension for the Charcoal
130 Arrillhjere Demonstration House Burners Hut
Brendan J. Meney Architects 174 Primary School Smiljan Radic
Dibdo Francis Kr
134 Druk White Lotus School 192 Cobtun House
Arup Associates Associated Architects

138 Bodega en Los Robles 196 Pealoln House

Jos Cruz Ovalle, Arquitecto Sur Tierra Arquitectura

142 Cocuy Pecayero Distillery 198 Handmade School

Rafael Mattar Neri, Arquitectos Asociados Heringer-Roswag Cooperation

144 Casa Corralones

Mathias Klotz Arquitecto
202 AfterwordThe Future
148 Prada Marfa 203 Acknowledgments
Elmgreen & Dragset 204 Notes
206 Design Credits
152 Christines House 207 Selected Bibliography
Rural Studio 208 Image Credits
A New Look at the Oldest
and Most Widely Used
Building Material on the Planet

It is estimated that between a third and a half of the worlds pop- Earth is often typically seen as a building material only
ulationapproximately three billion people on six continents used in rural environments; however, a wealth of earth architec-
lives in buildings constructed of earth.1 The typologies of earthen ture can be found in urban environments. Called the Manhattan
architecture, however, extend beyond buildings for living, and of the Desert, the city of Shibam, Yemen, has a population den-
include structures for working and worshiping, as well as the sity approaching that of New York City, with thirty-two peo-
countless forms of earthen architecture that are not inhabited by ple per acre, and is home to the worlds first skyscrapers: a dense
humans, such as agricultural buildings, city walls, and monu- cluster of five hundred tower houses rising up to nine stories high
ments. In India there are estimated to be as many as 80 million constructed entirely of mud brick.6 Contrary to the perception of
dwellings made of earth, and in China the number of people living earth as a fragile, ephemeral material, earth buildings also repre-
in earthen homes is estimated to be 100 million. 2 In France 15 per- sent the oldest extant buildings on the planet. Using approximately
cent of rural buildings are made of rammed earth, and the United 7,000,000 mud bricks, the Ziggurat at Ur was constructed in 4000
States is the leading consumer of mud bricks in the industrialized B.C.E. Taos Pueblo in New Mexico, constructed between 1000 and
world.3 This makes the ground we walk on and cultivate our crops 1450 C.E., is the oldest continuously occupied dwelling in North
in the most widely used building material on the planetthats America, and constructed entirely from raw earth.
right, dirt. This does not include, nor should be confused with, There are perhaps twenty different methods of employing
other materials that come from the ground, such as stone, cement, earth to construct walls, floors, and roofs of varying dimension and
or metals derived from ore. Earth, by this definition, is simply clay, form.7 The adaptability of the material has allowed it to respond to
gravel, sand, silt, or other friable soils, in which organic materials a wide range of contexts, cultures, and epochs, including the spec-
sometimes exist. Because of the ubiquitous availability of appropri- trum of architectural history from antiquity to the modern era. De
ate soil, buildings constructed of earth can also be found just about Architectura, or Ten Books on Architecture, as it is known today,
everywherein almost every terrestrial biome on the planet. written by the Roman architect Vitruvius, is the only treatise on
Earth buildings are commonly perceived to be used only architecture surviving from classical antiquity, and it continues to
by the poor or found only in developing countries, but there are be an invaluable reference for architects. The primary qualities he
earth buildings of almost every architectural type in use by every felt architecture should represent were firmitas, utilitas, and venus-
economic and social class in both the industrialized and non- tasdurability, usefulness, and beauty. Inherently, earthen archi-
industrialized worlds. Airports, embassies, hospitals, museums, tecture represents this triad of values, and he wrote extensively on
and factories are just a few examples of the variety of earth build- the topic. During Vitruviuss time, Rome was a warren of wind-
ing types found throughout the world. For example, the Seyoun ing streets and precarious multistory tenements (68 stories high),
Airport in Yemen uses concrete columns and beams with mud brick of mud brick and half-timber with cantilevered wooden balco-
infill walls. Many middle-class and wealthy residents inhabit the nies.8 Vitruvius writes of the use of mud brick in the construction
vast mud brick suburbs of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ronald Reagans of city walls and devotes an entire chapter in Book II to mud brick
Rancho del Cielo, also known as The Western White House, masonry, describing with great respect the methods for making
in California; Saddam Husseins childhood home in Iraq; the his- and stacking mud bricks. He speaks of lightweight waterproof mud
toric home of Paul Revere, also the oldest house in Boston; and bricks made of pumice that once dried are able to float on water.9
Chairman Maos childhood home in China were all constructed Vitruvius also writes about the mud brick cellae of the temples of
of earth.4 Several of the buildings housing the minimalist artist Jupiter and Hercules and the mud brick residences of Attalid kings
Donald Judds vast and priceless collection at the Judd Foundation
in Marfa, Texas, are made of mud brick.5 Such diversity speaks to
the wide spectrum of philosophies, social strata, and cultures rep-
resented by this universal material.

For thousands of years, mud bricks

have been shaped by hand and allowed
to dry in the sun to create a durable
and long-lasting building unit.

and Croesus. He also noted that, mud brick walls, so long as they Cointeraux, a French architect born in 1740, is considered
are standing upright nothing is deducted from their assessment, the father of modern earthen architecture. After his discovery
but whatever it cost to make them, they will always be assessed at of pis de terre, the rammed earth architecture of the rural French
this value. And so in some cities, public works and private homes countryside, he was awarded a gold medal in a competition hosted
alike, even royal palaces, are to be seen made of mud brick.10 by the Academy of Picardy for a design that used rammed earth as
But it is the modern era that is most relevant to this book, an inexpensive fireproof construction method. His first incom-
and in the eighteenth century the questioning of Vitruviuss work bustible house, erected in Chorges, in the commune of Hautes-
had profound effects on the culture of architecture. The move- Alpes, in 1786 was well received and considered advantageous for
ment away from neoclassicism allowed architects to establish a use throughout the European countryside at a time when most
more objective basis on which to work, and from this emerged a houses were constructed of highly flammable timber frame and
new way to conceive of architecture at the dawn of modernity.11 wattle and daub. The early success of Cointerauxs work subse-
However, the traditions of earth were so embedded in the culture quently prompted him to devote his entire life to the study and
of building that within the modern movement exists a not-so- dissemination of earthen architecture. He hoped that the use of
well-known history of modern architects reconsidering earth as rammed earth could contribute to improving life in France, which
a material in an era more famous for the use of steel, glass, and had suffered from the social, economic, and psychological burdens
concrete. The Four Elements of Architecture, Gottfried Sempers of several wars, and he believed that it could be a means by which
epoch-making theoretical departure from Vitruvius, challenged the common man could improve the quality of his own life.14 He
neoclassical thinking, but still drew from the tradition of build- developed a typology of earth architecture encompassing a com-
ing with earth. His four elements included roof, hearth, the plete range of housing for the poor and the wealthy in both urban
earthwork, and the lightweight enclosing membranethe latter and rural settings, which included four-story town houses, bour-
two being architectural components based upon load-bearing geois country mansions, and designs for public buildings, churches,
masonry or piled massive earth, such as mud brick or rammed earth, and factoriesmany of which were built.15
and the lightweight enclosure membranes being made of wattle In the same year that Cointeraux completed his incombus-
and daub. 12 tible house, the Duke of Bethune-Charost, lieutenant general of
Furthermore, not only were the traditions of earthen con- Picardy, invited him to experiment with rammed earth construc-
struction being employed at the dawn of the modern movement, tion in Amiens. He was not well received, however, especially by
it has been suggested that the evolving use of modern materi- timber and stone merchants and a wide range of craftsmen who
als was directly influenced by traditional earthen construction feared that if pis became widely accepted they would lose their
techniques. For example, the origins of modern concrete can be livelihood. Master masons and carpenters in Amiens approached
directly linked to advancements made in pis (rammed earth) in the police to complain, and Cointeraux was chased out of the city.16
France. Advancements in this humble construction technique, such His models were then destroyed by the craft guilds who were allied
as developing efficient formwork, experimenting with appropri- to the wood merchants.17
ate aggregate sizes, and adding cement stabilizer, as Jean Baptiste Despite this setback, Cointeraux persisted, and in 1788 he
Rondelet had when repairing the chteau in Ain, were some of founded a school of rural architecture in Paris. By teaching and
the first steps toward the development of modern bton (concrete) publishing fifty works translated into eight languages, including
traditions in France. As Peter Collins points out, it was inevitable English, over the next three decades, he disseminated his exper-
that sooner or later some far-sighted individuals should appreci- iments and philosophies in rammed earth. As a result of the
ate the revolutionary possibilities of this method of construction, publications, knowledge of pis spread across Europe and to the
and seek to extend it by improving on the material used. . . . The first United States, even catching the attention of President Thomas
of the pioneers was an ingenious but ambitious building labourer Jefferson, who visited Cointeraux in Paris to see examples of his
named Franois Cointeraux.13 work in rammed earth and compressed earth block. During that

visit Cointeraux suggested to Jefferson that rammed earth for- In the early twentieth century, Austrian-born architect
tifications be used to protect the frontier from attacks by Native Rudolph Schindler visited the Native American pueblos of New
Americans.18 Cointeraux also influenced a new way of thinking Mexico. He captured the vernacular architecture of the high-desert
about architecture in Europe, and he developed a number of stabi- landscape, with its thick mud walls and protruding roof structures,
lization methods that enabled rammed earth to meet the creative in a series of sketches he made during his visit. In 1915 he was com-
demands of forward-thinking architects such as Claude-Nicolas missioned to design a country home made of mud brick in Taos,
Ledoux and tienne-Louis Boulle, whose historical impacts New Mexico, that explored the architectural elements he found in
have overshadowed Cointerauxs contribution to architecture.19 the vernacular. Unfortunately, the design was never realized, and
Nevertheless, historians increasingly consider him as a vision- Schindler moved to Los Angeles to work as the project architect for
ary equal to his contemporaries, and Cointerauxs contributions Frank Lloyd Wright on two experimental projects using a masonry
may have been influential on the work of at least one of his peers. system called textile block. Schindler supervised the Hollyhock
Ledoux, best known for his grand utopian ideas, designed a series House, constructed in 1921, and the Ennis-Brown House, con-
of more humble proposals for fireproof buildings as well as the structed in 192 4, whose forms are drawn from pre-Columbian
Cours de Service, a modest farmhouse situated in the French coun- indigenous architecture. Architectural historian Reyner Banham
tryside, rendered in rammed earth. writes of the Hollyhock House:
Many other well-known architects continued to experiment
with earthen architecture in the nineteenth and twentieth centu- The back sloping walls of its upper parts have sources much
ries in the wake of Cointerauxs groundbreaking work. Antoni nearer home than Mayan architecture. They look to me like
Gaud, the Catalan architect famous for his unique style within the the first visible influence on Wrights work of what was to
art nouveau movement, for example, drew from the traditions of be his third and truest wilderness: the high desert states and
rammed earth in Spain and constructed several projects, includ- their Indian pueblos. If Wright himself had not yet seen
ing the entrance pavilions and stables for the farm of Eusebi Gell those pueblos in 1920, and the adobe construction that give
in 1884.20 Edwin Lutyens, the leading twentieth-century British them their characteristic form, his admirer, assistant, fol-
architect, known for his country houses, made designs in earth in lower and Los Angeles office manager, Rudolph Schindler,
response to material and housing shortages as a result of World certainly had, and had recorded them in drawings.22
War I; and Luis Barragn, the most important Mexican architect of
the twentieth century, utilized mud brick in his early designs. The material considerations for the Ennis-Brown House are
But it was in Germany and Austria that earthen architecture slightly different from those of the Hollyhock House. The textile
was transformed by the zeitgeist of the modern movement. The blocks for the Ennis-Brown House were produced by using soil
German architect Hermann Muthesius, founder of the Deutscher excavated from the site that was mixed with cement, a decision that
Werkbund and influential in the creation of the Bauhaus, was may have been based upon Wrights belief that no house should
a supporter of earthen architecture. As the chief architect of the ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging
Vienna Settlement Office, Adolf Loos, one of the most important to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the
architects of the modern period, designed low-cost rammed earth other.23 However, it is more likely that the decision to use local
housing in the Heubergsiedlung settlement because of the scar- soil in the manufacture of the textile block was influenced by proj-
city of materials after World War I. The economic validity of build- ect architect Schindlers appreciation of earth-building practices in
ing wartime housing of earth was also of interest to the German the American Southwest. The blocks that clad the building can be
architect of Hitlers Third Reich, Albert Speer, during World considered a form of stabilized mud brick construction with relief,
War II, but he considered it a means to fuel the war machine by light, shadow, and the hill itself cast in to the blocks.
conserving steel and concrete for the construction of weapons Wright went on to design other earth buildings. In 1942 he
and bunkers.21 designed the Lloyd Burlingham House, also known as the Pottery

House, in El Paso, Texas, which was to be constructed of mud bricks Le Corbusier, one of the most influential architects of the
and contain exposed beams similar to Schindlers design in Taos modern movement, shared Wrights frustration with the war.
twenty-two years before. While Wrights design was not realized Shortly after it began, Le Corbusier closed his office and began to
in his lifetime, Taliesin Associated Architects Ltd. permitted two develop architectural solutions in earth for refugee immigration
versions of the house to be completed posthumously in accordance caused by the escalating war. In 1942 he wrote a small book pro-
with Wrights original sketches.24 Around the same time, one ver- moting earthen construction entitled Les Constructions Murondins,
sion, the Bendheim House, was constructed in Phoenix, Arizona, which outlined methods and techniques for making and construct-
and the other, known as the Klotsche-Soiero Residence, was built ing rammed earth and compressed earth block for use in a wide
in 1985 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. range of residential, agricultural, and civic applications. Most of
Prior to his experiments in mud brick, Wright was interested his earth-built designs were for refugee housing. The houses, to
in rammed earth. In 1932 he began considering the use of rammed be built by occupants themselves, were to have load bearing walls
earth in his proposal for Broadacre City, and ten years later he began of concrete block and rammed earth or pis on the site mixed with
to test these ideas further in the Cooperative Homesteads project.25 logs and covered with turfa kind of prehistoric housing brought
The project was commissioned by a group of auto and defense plant up-to-date. A reversal of all the Five Points.28 Yet the project was
workers, professionals, and teachers in Madison Heights, Michigan, not one that looked to the past and, compared to some of the radi-
just fifteen miles north of downtown Detroit, and was designed to cal thinking that was emerging in technology during the war, Le
house twenty-two families on 120 acres. The design consisted of a Corbusiers Murondin project for installing sophisticated mechan-
two-bedroom low-cost house that could be built by the occupants, ical services in mud-huts showed a greater radicalism of approach,
with a built-in garden where the cooperative could grow their own wrote Banham.29 But his proposals were far more than mud-
food to eat or to supplement their income.26 huts. Le Corbusiers designs included proposals for temporary
To keep the cost of construction low, Wright decided to farm villages with houses and stables, as well as designs for youth
use an ingenious combination of rammed earth and earth berms. clubs, schools, and dormitories all constructed of earth.30 After the
In fact, the project was to be Wrights smallest commissionthe war, Le Corbusier returned to his ideas of building with earth and
house was estimated to be built for between $1,600 and $4,000.27 in 194748 proposed a housing complex in La Sainte-Baume, near
To create a garden, Wright decided to pile the earth that was exca- Marseille, France, that was to be constructed entirely of rammed
vated from the site against the rammed earth walls of the house. earthan unrealized design closely related to his Unit in Marseille,
The areas where soil was excavated were used as retention ponds whose conceptual origins grew from the ideas he developed from
for water that was shed from the roof. The berm of soil against the his explorations of the Radiant City concept.31
walls provided additional thermal mass to the building, sheltered Around the same time that Wright and Le Corbusier were
the building from the wind, and was to be planted with a ground- experimenting with earth architecture in the context of World War
cover of grass and moss. A rammed earth wall created the retaining II, a young architect named Hassan Fathy was waging his own bat-
wall for the berm, and thick rammed earth walls defined the interior tles against an invasion of Western ideologies in architecture by
spaces. To keep the berm and rammed earth walls dry, a large roof reviving and enhancing the vernacular architecture of Egypt. In
with cantilevered eaves extended over the berms. Construction on opposition to his Beaux-Arts education in a British-run univer-
the project begin during World War II, and while Wright was able sity, he adopted the Nubian art of mud brick dome, wall, and vault
to see the walls constructed, labor shortages left him short of work- construction, which made it possible for an entire building, includ-
ers to complete the project. When Wrights project architect was ing the roof, to be constructed out of earth. He also utilized prin-
drafted by the U.S. Army Air Corps, the project came to a standstill. ciples of thermodynamics inherent to earth construction to create
As winter arrived, the heavy Michigan snows dissolved the unpro- passive cooling systems at residential and urban scales. In addition,
tected walls and Wrights vision for a rammed earth utopia. he developed an entire economic philosophy based on mud brick,

opposite, left: Casa Grande was opposite center: A redwood structure

constructed between 1200 and 1450 C.E. and an iron roof anchored to the ground by
by the Native American Hohokam near cables were constructed in 1903 to protect
Phoenix, Arizona. the ruins of Casa Grande.

training mud brick makers, masons, and vault builders. Probably of years. And although mud brick had been used in New Mexico
not since Cointeraux had an architect so ardently advocated the use for centuries, his design had to comply with the strict United
of earth architecture, and in 1945 Fathys work caught the attention States building codes, which required elaborate foundations and a
of the Egyptian Department of Antiquities, which offered him his cement plaster skin.34
first major commissionto design an entire city of mud brick. As a result, the mosque was much more expensive than
The new city was to be a relocation settlement for the res- originally anticipated, leaving no budget to construct the individ-
idents of the city of Gourna, whose livelihood was based partly ual homes, which were part of the original master plan.35 Plagued
upon looting the Tombs of the Nobles, which lay directly beneath by these setbacks, the construction of the mosque was ultimately
their city. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of New Gourna had no a product of all that Fathy fought against through his architec-
economic incentives to stay in their new home other than those ture. Despite the constant struggles he faced in support of earth
developed by Fathy involving the construction of the city; and architecture, Fathy continues to inspire people throughout the
instead they chose to continue looting the ancient graves. Fathys world. James Steele, the preeminent authority on Fathy and his
beautiful mud brick city was soon abandoned. The construction work, notes that he is perhaps the earliest, clearest example of a
of New Gourna came to a halt in 1948, only one-third complete, sustainability-oriented architect we can find. Every sustainable
but containing a mosque, a school, arcades, a market, and numer- principle you can mention or want to talk about, Fathy wrote about,
ous houses. In 1969 Fathy documented his struggles with the con- thought about, built, gave us living examples of. That is why his
struction of New Gourna in his seminal book, Construire avec le work is important.36
peuple (Building with the People), a title that was later translated Because of the wealth of historic earthen structures on the
as Architecture for the Poor when published in English. The book planet, not all earthen architecture of the modern period was con-
has become an influential guide to people around the world, as ceived from the ground up. Architects have also had to interact
it outlines the process of mud brick construction as a means for with preexisting structures, creating interesting tensions between
anyone to build low-cost housing that is inexpensive, sustainable, past and present. Perhaps nowhere is the blending of modernity
and beautiful. and tradition more evident than at the Casa Grande Ruins National
In 1980, Fathy received his first North American commis- Monument. Casa Grande, a large earthen structure on the historic
sion, to build the Dar al Islam community in Abiquiu, New Mexico, site, was constructed between 1200 and 1450 C.E. by the Native
for U.S.-born Muslims.32 The community was to have a mosque American Hohokam near Phoenix, Arizona. In 1892 President
and several houses, but the project faced a series of setbacks that Benjamin Harrison designated the area a reservation to protect the
were in opposition to Fathys ideals. Fathys work, primarily in massive ruin, making it the first prehistoric and cultural site to be
Arabia, was based on the architecture of that region. When invited established in the United States.37 The significance of the ancient
to design a mosque in the American Southwest, he originally structure to the history of modern architecture lies in the combi-
wished to explore traditional Navajo building prototypes. Instead, nation of a historic past and its preservation. Many attempts were
he was encouraged to transplant the Nubian vault and dome idiom made to preserve the ruin, and in 1903 a protective covera large
he had adopted in Egypt.33 Furthermore, to build Fathys vaults, galvanized corrugated iron roof with a 6-foot overhang supported
workers were required to use plywood supports because local by 10-inch-square redwood posts embedded into the ground
building authorities were distrustful of the formless techniques was built over the prehistoric earth structure. The entire can-
that had been well established by Nubian masons for thousands opy was then anchored to the ground by cables attached to each

far right: The new roof, completed in

1932, is a singular expression of
traditional and modern architecture.

corner.38 This act radically transformed the perception of the ruin. of Fathys influential book, which shed new light on Western and
For centuries it had remained an abandoned, hulking mass repre- non-Western architects conceptions of earth as a building mate-
senting the power of a past civilization. Wrapped in its new pro- rial. Also, the projects had to utilize an earthen technology that in
tective cocoon, the historic structure became an introverted and its traditional form allowed for the finished surface of the interior
fragile piece of history. or exterior to be raw, exposed earth. Throughout the world, ver-
In 1928 the National Park Service announced a competition nacular earth building traditions are highly developed, and the level
for a new shelter that would protect the ruin, while falling into of refinement allows for finished earthen wall surfaces, so occu-
the background so as not to take away from its impact. The Park pants have a direct connection to the material. Modern adaptations
Service suggested that a flat roof on a light steel frame be considered of these technologies; however, often cover the earthen surface to
because the steel frame, it was thought, would be as far a depar- protect it and create a separation between the soil and the body.
ture from the design and material of the ruin as can be obtained. 39 I do not consider earth-sheltered buildings relative to this book,
The winner of the competition was Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., because neither the structure nor the finish is necessarily earthen,
son of the landscape architect most famous for the earthwork of and retaining walls of concrete, stone, or, more recently, tires,
Central Park in New York City, who was acting as an adviser to the buffer earth from occupant.
Park Service.40 The intention of this book is to present a survey of projects
Olmsted Jr. sketched a design for a steel hip roof structure that are exemplary of contemporary and progressive earth architec-
with a guy wire system, much like that used on a circus tent, to ture. Earth-building technologies are the oldest known construc-
secure the structure to the ground and protect the roof from uplift tion techniques on the planet, but their use does not necessitate a
due to wind. His design was chosen as the winner, and in 1932 historic style, nor does it reflect a retrogressive technology. Earth
Congress appropriated funds to construct a new shelter over the construction is highly refined, having been studied and improved
ruin. Completed on December 12, 1932, the final design was realized upon for thousands of years. While several of the projects may rep-
with the exception of the guy wires; the hip roof supported by lean- resent a postcolonial positiona reassertion of the material cul-
ing columns was consistent with Olmsteds design, and the ten- ture of earth in order to break from the colonial factions that dictate
sile roof structure incorporated glass skylights. Angled columns, 46 the hegemony of industrial materialsnone of the projects are
feet from the ground to the eaves, were painted sage green to har- influenced by postmodern ideals, borrowing stylistic elements
monize with the mountains and vegetation as well as to provide from the past.
contrast to the ruin.41 But the resulting combination of steel, glass, In selecting projects for this book I chose only designs that
and earth was somewhat counter to the goal of creating a hierarchi- advance the state of earth architecture. Technological, economic, or
cal relationship, with the ruin taking the foreground. Instead, the aesthetic advancements in earthen construction that create a dia-
liberation of the ruin from the cocoon of preservation resulted in a logue with industrial materials, or that explore form, texture, color,
singular expression and a new type of architectureone fusing his- building techniques, or use earth to represent a political or social
toric and modern building traditions. This hybrid form of architec- concern are present in some way in every project. Finally, all the
ture, born from the melding of the new and the old, represents the included projects tackle an important contemporary issue relevant
conceptual basis for the content of this book: works of architecture to the culture of earthen architecture. Among these issues are:
that employ the ancient technology of earth and are informed by
the issues that affect contemporary society. Industrialism Earth is one of the few materials on the planet that
has not been subject to large-scale industrialization. The heteroge-

neity of soil has allowed earthen building techniques to be techno-
I based the criteria for selecting the forty-seven projects featured logically and contextually supple. While many machines have been
in the book upon several important factors. First, I considered proj- devised to advance the state of the material, earthen architecture
ects completed only after 1970the year following the publication remains largely a specialized and traditional practice, unchanged

for thousands of years. Yet the advancements of the industrial common building material on the planet is classified as alterna-
revolution have brought about technologies that, when appropri- tive or worseprimitive. At the dawn of every countrys tran-
ately coupled with earth techniques, can result in ingenious hybrid sition to an industrialized society, it makes a concerted effort to
forms of construction. abandon its earth-building traditions at the risk of depleting natu-
ral resources such as wood; investing in construction projects using
Ecology Earth is an inherently ecological material. Earth has expensive industrially produced materials such as concrete, which
excellent thermal mass properties, which can maintain comfort- often perform poorly in developing nations; and losing traditional
able interior temperatures without the need for mechanical heat- cultural knowledge. The perception that industrial materials are
ing and cooling. The utilization of earth requires little embodied better is often coupled with a societys embarrassment about its
energy and structures made of it are highly recyclable. When aban- highly developed, contextually responsive, and deeply meaning-
doned, earthen buildings simply melt back into the ground, and ful traditions.
their ruins can be used to grow vegetation or be reused again as a
building material. Politics The makeup of soil, which differs from one place to
another, makes it difficult to create material standards for earth
Earthquakes International awareness of the consequences of earth- an important consideration in the processing and selling of build-
quakes on earth architecture increased in 2003 after a 6.6 earth- ing materials. This does not bode well for earths role in a capitalist
quake hit the Iranian city of Bam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site society. Increasingly, it is illegal to build with earth because of
made entirely of earth and home to the largest mud brick struc- building codes that are enforced by municipalities. While these
ture in the world, the Bam Citadel. The earthquake killed an esti- decisions are made in the name of safety, it is more likely that
mated one-third of the population and destroyed 70 percent of manufacturers of industrialized products have lobbied to prevent
the city.42 While the majority of the buildings in the city had sur- the use of a free and versatile material such as earthsimilar to
vived in the earthquake-prone region for 500 years and more, Cointerauxs experience centuries ago. In the cases where earth is
earth architecture nevertheless garnered a poor reputation for part of accepted building codes, particularly in the United States,
being dangerous. Thankfully, much research, particularly at the the over-building of bond beams and foundations to allow for the
Pontificia Universidad Catlica del Per; the University of Kassel, lack of knowledge of traditional methods results in higher building
Germany; and the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, costs. These unnecessary enhancements also often require skilled
has advanced the technology of creating earthquake-resistant earth labor and specialized equipment, keeping earth architecture far out
buildings. of reach from anyone but the most wealthy.44

Education There is an ever-increasing number of schools, organi- The issues surrounding the production of earth architecture sug-
zations, and institutions around the world dedicated to the dissem- gest why many of the proposals by the modern masters were never
ination of earthen architecture. The construction of earth buildings realized or did not receive much acclaim. Nevertheless, the works
is an illuminating and fun process, and often builders invite guests of countless architects, builders, and laypeople who have contrib-
to construction sites to teach traditional and advanced techniques. uted to the evolution of earthen architecture over the past several
Many international organizations offer courses and workshops on thousand years have not been in vain. As evidenced by the work
earthen construction, and the University of Grenoble in France in the subsequent four chapters, our planets oldest building tradi-
offers a masters degree in earthen architecture.43 tions continue to inspire and shelter us despite the complexities of
a modern age.
Prejudices The perceived hegemony of the industrialized world
has for decades been directly responsible for causing an inferi-
ority complex among earth-building cultures. Today, the most

1Rammed Earth
Rammed earth is the man-made equivalent of sedimentary rock. was raging in the West, French immigrants arriving in the south-
For thousands of years builders throughout the world have com- ern United States were building slave quarters, plantation houses,
pacted soil to create rock-hard structures using only simple tools churches, and schools out of rammed earth. The historic campus of
and manpower, resulting in some of the most beautiful and well- the Southwest School of Art & Craft in San Antonio, Texas, built in
known wonders of the built environment. The Alhambra in Spain, 1848, and the Church of the Holy Cross in Sumter, South Carolina,
the great kasbahs of Morocco, and long stretches of Chinas Great built in 1850, are notable examples of this legacy. While rammed
Wall, begun in the fifth century B.C.E., are only a few examples of earth was taking hold in the United States, Australians, caught up
rammed earths historic global heritage. in gold rush fever, were beginning to establish towns by compact-
Some of the earliest evidence of rammed earths origins are ing the soil of the Central Australian desert.
found in China, where archaeologists have excavated rammed earth The rammed earth process begins with soil selection. Soil
walls built by the Longshan Culture of the Late Neolithic period used to make rammed earth must have an appropriate ratio of sand,
(26001900 B.C.E.), between the Stone Age and the Bronze Agea gravel, and clay to give cohesion, stability, and strength to the wall.
period that also marks the establishment of cities in China. 1 The Commonly, soil used in the construction of rammed earth build-
technology later spread throughout the Middle East and was intro- ings is taken directly from the site, moistened, and compacted
duced to Europe via the Phoenician trading empire, which founded with little thought as to its precise composition. In regions where
the rammed earth city of Carthage. Roman historian Gaius Plinius rammed earth building has existed for hundreds, if not thousands,
Secundus states that the Romans learned the technology from the of years, appropriate soil is selected by location, visual inspec-
Carthaginians and continued its dissemination throughout their tion, smell, feel, and even taste. Traditional builders also found
territories. He also notes the survival of a rammed earth fortifica- many ways to adapt their material to local conditions by inserting
tion built by Hannibal 250 years earlier and writes about rammed branches, water, blood, or lime to prevent cracking or to increase
earth walls in Spain.2 The Romans spread the technology to south- cohesion and durability. Occasionally, long branches or bamboo
ern France via the Rhne River valley, where they built the capital are placed in the wall between compaction layers and parallel to
city, Gaul, in what is present day Lyon. The substantial legacy of the ground, to act as a reinforcement and reduce shrinkage as the
rammed earth country houses and agricultural buildings in the wall dries. However, because rammed earth is now being used in
rural areas south of Lyon is still visible today. places where the tradition has been lost, in places where the tradi-
Native Americans were practicing the technology before tion never existed, or where it must comply with building codes
the arrival of Europeans in the Americas. The Pyramid of the Sun, that demand specific performance values, experts have determined
built of 2 million tons of rammed earth faced with stone, located the appropriate amount of silt, sand, gravel, clay, moisture, and
in Teotihuacn, Mexico, was begun in 100 C.E. and rises to an stabilizing agent necessary to build structures compatible with the
impressive height of 207 feet.3 European traditions of rammed demands of todays rigorous standards. Yet the variability in soil
earth first arrived in the Americas from Spain. The oldest remnant composition makes standardization difficult, and there are many
of a European structure in the Americas is the ruin of a rammed differing opinions regarding the best formula for making a rammed
earth house in the first formal European settlement, the city of La earth structure. The ideal mixture is 15 to 18 percent clay mixed
Isabela in the Dominican Republic, which Christopher Columbus with 23 percent coarse aggregate, 30 percent sand, and 32 percent
founded on his second voyage to the Americas in 1493.4 The tech- silt; but because clay provides good cohesion, mixes with up to 30
nology spread with the Spanish conquest into the southern United percent clay are possible.5
States and South America. In the mid-nineteenth century, Chinese An aggregate composition of several different-size par-
immigrants, arriving to participate in the California gold rush, ticles is necessary to increase wall density and strength, and the
brought the technology to the western coast of the United States. amount of moisture in the mix is critical for good soil compaction.
A small store built of rammed earth in 1877 by Chinese immigrants Appropriate moisture content cause particles to become increas-
can still be found in Dutch Flat, California. While the gold rush ingly dense as the soil is compressed, and moisture levels are good

if there is no dust being emitted by the pounding of the earth. But The advancement of formwork has allowed architects to
if the soil is too muddy, it will stick to the formwork or the tamp- escape from the rectilinear geometries of traditional rammed earth
ing device. and use curves and obtuse angles, as seen in the projects by Loco
In modern rammed earth construction, portland cement, Architects, Reitermann and Sassenroth, and Cox Architects. The
emulsified asphalt, or hydrated lime is commonly mixed with the process of compacting soil and the plasticity of earth capture the
soil to increase its compressive strength and water resistance and texture and size of the formwork in the wall surface. In Rick Joys
to reduce the soils expansion due to ambient moisture or precipi- Palmer-Rose House, joints left by the formwork speak to the mem-
tation. Some question these additives, especially the addition of ory of the rammed earth process. The thin layers of cement found
cement, since adding this stabilizing agent in the mixture can be between compaction layers in the Rammed Earth Houses by Jourda
seen as unnecessary, redundant, or producing an admixture that & Perraudin Partenaires express the architects attention to the pro-
is not rammed earth at all, but rather concrete or soil-cement. In cess of assembling and removing the formwork in the facade.
most instances, however, as in the projects in this chapter, the The ramming process begins by filling a formwork with a
added cement is negligible. While asphalt is known to have been small amount of soil and compacting it with a tamping device. Soil
used in earth construction thousands of years agoSumerians, is typically added 4 to 8 inches at a time and compressed to 50 per-
for example, set mud bricks in a mortar of bitumentoday its cent of its uncompacted height. Traditionally, this was achieved by
use might raise eyebrows, considering rammed earths ecological tamping the earth by hand. Manual tampers constructed of wood
reputation.6 or steel with a thick, heavy base are common tools. To compact
The formwork used in the construction of rammed earth the earth, the soil is pounded with these tools until the appropri-
structures is designed to resist the outward forces created by the ate level of density is achieved. In industrialized construction,
compaction of the soil. It also defines the structures shape and pneumatic tampers are more commonly used. These air-powered
allows for the creation of windows, doors, or impressions in the tools are operated by hand and can compact large volumes of soil
earth structure. While traditional formwork may vary slightly at impact levels much greater than human strength can achieve,
around the world, it is generally constructed of wood, is portable, increasing the durability, longevity, and strength of the wall.7 In
and is typically light enough to be manageable by one or two peo- the case of large rammed earth works, gasoline-powered earth tam-
ple. Portable formwork requires a builder to construct only small pers are sometimes employed, as long as the machine fits within
sections of the wall at a time, moving the form along the length of the formwork.
the wall and lifting it as the wall grows taller. Because this system The labor-intensive process of adding and compacting soil
creates joints between the areas of a completed section and a section continues until the desired height of the structure is achieved.
in process, ramming is coursed like brickwork, with each subse- Depending on how the soil is added, different aesthetic results
quent layer overlapping the next, especially at the corners. Tying are possible. Soil compacted incrementally will result in strati-
one section to the previous one may entail quoining the two sec- fication, a subtle detail visible in the walls of the Chapel of Rest
tions together by ramming earth at an incline to create a lap joint. by Marte.Marte. The articulation of earthen layers can be further
In contemporary Western construction practices, the form- accentuated by adding different colors of soil or by increasing
work used in rammed earth has become very advanced, primar- and decreasing the height of the uncompacted layer. The facade
ily through the appropriation of the steel-lined slip forms used in of Hotson Bakker Boniface Hadens NkMip Desert Interpretive
building concrete structures. Like traditional forms, slip forms can Centre is an excellent example of this effect taken to its full poten-
be lifted as the wall grows. In some cases, however, many people tial. A more even and homogenous wall surface can be achieved
or specialized equipment and machinery are required to lift and by adding soil continuously while it is being compacted. The walls
maneuver these forms. In other instances, the formwork that rep- of Gary Marinkos Margaret River House are richly varied rather
resents the entire finished product is erected at once, and workers than layered, exploiting the warmth created by the materials hue.
compact soil within the completed shuttering. The size and nature of the aggregate is also a factor in the resulting

structure. Erosion by wind, water, and time will reveal the particles
of earth, exposing stones or creating a variegated texture, which is
expressed beautifully in the Storage Sheds and Chronometry Tower
by Roger Boltshauser Architekten and the Chapel of Reconciliation
by Reitermann and Sassenroth.
Increasingly, architects are using rammed earth as a modern
material that is durable, adaptable, and responds to growing envi-
ronmental concerns. A reemergence of rammed earth is occurring
in France, China, Australia, and Germany, and it is being introduced
to areas where it has little or no history, such as Canada and Japan.
In other parts of the world, rammed earth has been introduced in
environments where other earth-building technologies, such as
mud brick, were already common. Arizona, where many earth-
building traditions have been practiced for thousands of years, is
now home to rammed earth projects of international prominence
that display a high level of technical precision and sophistication.
As evidenced by the number and variety of projects in this chapter,
from housing to religious and cultural buildings, rammed earth has
emerged as the most popular earth-building technique in contem-
porary architecture culture.

Architecture Firm and Application of Earth Architecture gives an aesthetic rhythm to the facade while
Jourda & Perraudin Partenaires (CRATerre) to develop the technological, providing lateral reinforcement to the tall
Location aesthetic, and environmental objectives of earthen walls, and the thin horizontal layer
lIsle-dAbeau, France their designs. The final proposals explored also helps prevent erosion of the layers of earth
Date an eclectic range of spatial, material, and below. Conceptually, framing the traditional
1984 formal attitudes toward rammed earth con- material in a modern material is a reflection of
struction. While some reflect the traditional the original aims of the Centre Pompidous
In 1980 the Centre Pompidou in Paris vernacular of the region, others challenge exhibition.
sponsored an exhibition to showcase both tradition by exploring innovative approaches. The juxtaposition of traditional and
traditional and modern earth-construction Although there are many interesting modern is also present in the design of the
techniques. The exhibitions success prompted schemes in the complex, some of the projects roof. Unlike traditional rammed earth build-
the Centre Pompidous Industrial Creation employ a postmodern pastiche to reference the ings, whose walls carry the load of the roof,
Centre to host a competition for the creation traditional earthen architecture of the region. here the roof, constructed of translucent poly-
of a new town constructed entirely of earth. Franoise Jourda and Gilles Perraudins design, carbonate supported by a lightweight steel
A partnership was formed between the center however, demonstrates a uniquely progressive truss, is rendered almost invisible next to the
and the mayor of LIsle-dAbeau, an adjacent use of rammed earth. The project comprises massive walls. To emphasize this condition,
town that would incorporate the urban village, two semidetached duplex housing units. The the rammed earth walls do not hold up the
and together they established a site for the three-story apartments contain two bedrooms, truss, which is supported instead by concrete
construction of seventy-two earthen homes in a kitchen, two bathrooms, a living area, and a columns that stand apart from the walls,
an experimental housing complex called garage. All apartments also have access to the creating an eave that protects the earthen walls
Domaine de la Terrethe Earthen Estates. outdoors via balconies, private terraces, green- from rain. The translucent roof also produces
The site for the new complex was divided houses, and private gardens. a greenhouse effect, and the heat is used to
into eleven blocks, each designed by a team The walls were constructed of stabilized warm the building via ventilators that are
of architects. Ten teams of architects and build- rammed earth compacted in wooden form- controlled by a thermostat. At the rear of the
ers, selected in a national design competition work with a pneumatic tamper. In order to apartments, a concrete-block wall defines
aimed at utilizing raw earth technologies, articulate the process, the architects laid a private terraces on the first and second floors
worked directly with technical consultants thin layer of concrete between each lift of the of the complex, providing a transition between
from the Grenoble-based Center for Research formwork. This layering of concrete and earth the interior and the private garden.

opposite, top: Each pairing of semi- opposite, bottom: In back, each apartment
detached units contains two three-story has its own private garden that can be seen
rammed earth apartments. from the concrete-block terrace connected
to the third-story bedrooms.

Rammed Earth Houses

top to bottom: Third-floor plan; second-floor plan; first-floor plan

left: Private terraces made of steel right: The architects articulated the process
and concrete block offer a view of the of lifting the formwork by inserting
private garden. a thin layer of concrete between each
layer of earth.

Architecture Firm numerous Royal Institute of Australian park headquarters, and reception area.
Glenn Murcutt & Associates Architecture awards for their climate- and Each space opens up to shaded outdoor areas
and Troppo Architects context-sensitive work, won the competition. that are organized along a long central spine
Location Their submission for the center seemed to made of rammed earth. The soil used to con-
Kakadu National Park, grow from the landscapeusing natural struct the wall, sourced locally with help from
Northern Territory, Australia materials and making formal and spatial refer- the Aboriginal Djabulukgu Association and
Date ences inspired by the culture and experience the Gagudju people (who are well known for
1994 of visiting the savannah bush site. their distinctive rock art painted with clay
The primary inspirations for the Bowali pigments) has a distinctive red color. This color
The Kakadu National Park is an enormous Visitor Information Centre were the caves and and the walls height make it reminiscent of
wildlife and nature preserve covering almost escarpments of the Kakadu National Park. the termite mounds, which sometimes reach
7,700 square miles located in Australias Named Bowali, after the Mirarr Gundjeihmi up to ten feet in height, that are visible on the
Northern Territory. Vast amounts of land with clans name for a nearby creek, the center has a approach to the building.
caves and escarpmentshome to crocodiles, long, reflective roof that becomes an actual Aboriginal sacred sites are always
wallabies, dingos, goannas, and a myriad of creek. During monsoon season, rain collects in approached at an angle, and the architects
bird speciesdefine this World Heritage Site. the long central gutter and is channeled to took this into consideration in the design.
In the early 1990s, the park became an increas- spouts, forming waterfalls like those that leap The oblique pathway to the building
ingly popular destination for tourists: visits to from the parks cliffs and shedding water away also allows one to see the entire length of
the park were four times as numerous as in from protected spaces beneath the roof that the building, with the qualities of light and
previous years, and the number of park staff are like the caves found in the cliff walls. As it shadow beneath the corrugated metal roof,
had increased 33 percent. To accommodate does in the park, the water then flows to a as it extends into the landscape. The light
this increased traffic the Australian Nature billabong, or pond, that cools the spaces below that filters through transparent corrugated
Conservation Agency and the parks board the continuous shelter of the roof. It is here in fiberglass and perforated metal, coupled with
sponsored a competition for a new visitor the shade that the entire building program is shadows formed by the vertical slats that
center. A team composed of internationally located. The complex includes an environmen- conceal parts of the building, create a dynamic
renowned architect Glenn Murcutt and tal interpretation center, a bird information experience, similar to that of walking through
Troppo Architects, whose work has received center, gallery, library, cafe, audio/visual area, the bush.

opposite, top: The Bowali Visitors Centre opposite, bottom: Walking along the
meanders through the bush like the continuous wooden deck that connects
creek after which it is named. all the Centres facilities is like a trek
through the bush.

Bowali Visitor Information Centre

Floor plan

Early sketch illustrating the airy roof canopy over the continuous wood deck


top: Vegetation, ponds, and shade make bottom left: Long gutters channel bottom right: Termite mounds, tree
the center a continuous part of the water and create waterfalls during the trunks, the canopy, and water are all
landscape. monsoon season. embodied in the buildings forms and


Architecture Firm would be an introverted, enclosed environ- Both the family room and the living
Jones Studio ment, the interiors of the Low residence are room have long transparent walls that open
Location bathed with light, and the cluster of buildings up the interior to light and views to the south.
Scottsdale, Arizona creates surprising outdoor spaces that connect Through triangular clerestory windows at
Date the occupants to the virtually untouched the east and west gable ends of the building,
1997 desert landscape. indirect light enters the house, except during
The rammed earth walls18 to 24 inches the morning and evening hours when the
Called The Dirt House by neighbors, the thickwere constructed from soil taken interior is bathed in direct desert mountain
Low Compound is a single-family private resi- directly from the site and mixed with 5 percent sunlight. Light transcends the spatial boundar-
dence whose functions are housed in several portland cement. This admixture was loaded ies of the interior divisions through clear glass
buildings, making the 7,800 feet of space feel in 8-inch layers into formwork typically used panels above the rammed earth walls that
more intimate. The scheme comprises a garage, in the construction of concrete walls and separate the living room from the guest bed-
guesthouse, main wing, bedroom wing, and was compacted to 6 inches using hand-held rooms. A slit in the roof spanning almost the
study; each part has its own identity and is pneumatic tampers. Both interior and exterior entire length of the main building is perhaps
situated within the ten-acre parcel of land walls expose the countless layers of compacted the subtlest means by which light enters the
so that the large footprint does not overwhelm soil, but the interior walls are coated with building. Light from this long, narrow opening
the site. Every component of the compound a clear sealer to prevent small particles of the is reflected off the metal leaf panels, canted
respects the natural drainage patterns of the rammed earth surface from dislodging. The to illuminate the interior with diffuse light;
site, and they are clustered together, unobtru- study, the only room where rammed earth and the fir ceiling oriented along the length-
sive and somewhat hidden by the surrounding walls completely enclose a space on all four wise axis of the building reinforces the
paloverde trees and saguaro cacti. A rich palette sides, is constructed as a free-standing object incision. Sandblasted glass, coupled with
of materials that reference the landscape also between the family and living rooms. Its walls galvanized and oxidized metals, the polished
helps situate the building within its context. are punctured with small, deep-set panes concrete floor, and a large reflecting pool add
Although it is easy to imagine that a large, of colored glass, giving the space the quality further to the diffusion, reflection, and buffer-
sheltered compound tucked into the landscape of a small chapel. ing of light that occurs within the house.

opposite, top: Adjacent to a massive opposite, bottom right: Colored glass and
rammed earth wall, the pool helps cool small openings give the rammed earth
the air around the house. study the quality of a small chapel.

opposite, bottom left: Fir, metal leaf,

polished concrete, rammed earth, and
acid-etched glass make up the rich
material palette.

Floor plan

Low Compound

Architecture Firm The living area is the most prominent spaces to the hillside and alludes to the more
Kerry Hill Architects part of the house. It is composed of a thin metal protected component of the house that
Location roof and elevated platform supported by a contains the sheltered bedroom spaces behind.
Prevelly, Western Australia lightweight steel frame and enclosed by glass, The sleeping area is designed to provide
Date which joins the living spaces with the land- protection from the elements, particularly the
1998 scape. Because the two outdoor decks at each cold southwesterly winds, and to give a sense
end of this hovering transparent box and its of quiet enclosure to the master bedroom
Situated on a sloping site in the semirural land- interior spaces use tallowwood flooring, which and two guest rooms housed within this zone.
scape of Prevelly amid vineyards, rolling hills, is naturally resistant to the elements, there Unlike the living area, which is primarily
the wind and surf of the Indian Ocean, and the is a seamless visual connection between the defined by steel and glass, here meticulously
vast landscape of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste interior and exterior. The kitchen, dining, and detailed rammed earth walls and tallowwood
National Park, a small house asserts itself living areas have an unsurpassed view of the siding create a zone of warmth and comfort.
among these varied environments by respond- national park and take full advantage of the Only small openings penetrate this protected
ing to the particulars of each one. Called the warmth of the winter sun. Reinforcing the space, defined by wood brise-soleil screens.
Ooi House, the three-bedroom, 3,400-square- relationship between inside and outside, the In contrast with the exposed glass-enclosed
foot vacation retreat is divided into two entire space is adjacent to an outdoor courtyard courtyard in the living area, a small earth-
zonesa more public living space that exposes separated from the interior only by glass walls. sheltered courtyard provides privacy for the
one to the qualities of the natural environment This outdoor room contains a reflecting pool guest bedroom.
and a private sleeping area that is sheltered and is enclosed on one side by a massive stabi-
and protected. lized rammed earth wall that anchors the living

opposite, top: The open views toward the opposite, center right: Meticulously
front and dense forest at the rear make up detailed rammed earth walls, tallowood
the parti of the Ooi House. siding, and bris-soleil screens enclose the
sleeping zone.
opposite, center left: Tallowood floors
extend past glass walls to outdoor spaces, opposite, bottom: A glass wall separates
blurring the inside and outside. the living space from an exterior
courtyard that segues between the two
zones of the house.

Floor plan

Ooi House

Architecture Firm make it particularly exemplary as a modern open living room connected to the kitchen
Rick Joy Architects building, but the contrasting relationships and adjacent prep kitchen. The space, shaped
Location between interior and exterior, exquisite by an inverted gable roof, gestures towards
Tucson, Arizona details, its contextual responsiveness, and the a panoramic view of the Santa Catalina
Date juxtaposition of modern and traditional mate- Mountains only a few miles away, framed by
1998 rials result in an architectural tour de force. a floor-to-ceiling wall of structural glass
The house is situated on a 4-acre site along the entire north facade. The interior also
Good desert architecture often blends surrounded by native vegetation at the edge extends outdoors to a 500-square-foot covered
seamlessly with its context while possessing of a large arroyo. As a response to the native patio enclosed by rammed earth walls; a fire-
expressive and responsive form. For example, vegetation and the grandeur of the nearby place is embedded in one of them.
the ruins at Mesa Verde in Colorado can be 7,000-foot-tall Santa Catalina Mountains, The more private wing of the house,
seen as a series of individual structures and the architect nestled the house 25 feet below which houses the bedroom, study, bathrooms,
as a seamless extension of the cliff itself. Taos the elevation of the road, allowing the house and storage, is slightly askew to the living
Pueblo in New Mexico, well known for its to maintain a low profile, and carefully sited wing, aligned with the morning sun to bring
multistory earthen building rising from it so that no trees or cacti were destroyed in eastern light into the bedroom. Like the
the landscape, blends seamlessly with the the construction process. The combination of living room, the bedroom opens up to views
surroundings because of its materiality, while these two factors makes the house almost through an uninterrupted structural glass wall.
shade and shadow articulate the buildings completely hidden from view. This glass wall system is a two-layer system
massing. The influence of these buildings on The 2,800-square-foot private residence custom-designed specifically for the harsh
Tucson architect Rick Joys work is evident in comprises two rectangular rammed earth vol- desert environment. On the exterior, the
the Palmer-Rose House, which blends with umes that define the public and private spaces. 1-inch-thick insulated glass has a tinted coating
and is almost hidden in the landscape while The two segments join at a point, creating a to reflect direct and indirect sunlight; and
simultaneously leaping forward from its desert hinge that emphasizes the main entrance to on the interior, -inch clear tempered low-
environmenta dynamic expression of archi- the house. From here the more public section emissivity glass controls heat transfer.
tectural form. These qualities of the house of the house is revealed, which contains an

opposite: Large expanses of tinted

insulated glass buffer direct sunlight and
keep out heat.


Palmer-Rose House

In contrast to the delicate, almost invisible imparted the memory of the individual panels comprise the inverted roof. Consistent with
quality of the glass, the rammed earth walls are and the layering process in the wall. Quarter- Joys desire to contrast the heavy earth with
massive elements that shield the rooms from inch-thick plate steel welded to steel tubing other materials used in the house, the rusting
the psychological and physical effects of the and gusset plates was used to create lintels for corrugated metal roof reads as thin, structure-
desert sun. So massive are the walls that their doors, windows, and niches in the thick walls, less leaves floating above the earthen walls,
weight, including the foundation, is estimated giving the effect of clean and precise incisions extending at times up to 4 feet beyond the top
to be 500 tons. Three different local soils were into the earth. To help lower the temperature of the wall. Not only does this create a dynamic
used in the rammed earth mixture, each with of the walls during periods of extreme heat, relationship between the ground and the sky,
different amounts of clay, sand, and gravel, an evaporative cooling system blows humid it is also a necessary condition to protect the
and mixed with portland cement and the pig- air over them, preventing heat gain and further battered earthen walls. The shape of the
ment iron oxide to achieve the desired erosion cooling the interior of the house. roofline drains the water toward a single gutter
resistance, structural integrity, and color. The In strategic locations, structural steel that cantilevers far past the house to create a
soil was compacted atop a reinforced concrete columns embedded in the rammed earth walls waterfall announcing the desert rain during
foundation in reusable formwork that support long spanning steel beams that the rainy season.

Site plan

top left: A skylight washes down the top right: The house, carefully sited so bottom: A fireplace is embedded into one
rammed earth wall, revealing the texture that no trees or cacti were destroyed in of the massive rammed earth walls that
and layers left by the formwork that are the construction process, is surrounded by enclose the outdoor terrace and frame
part of the process of construction. native flora at the edge of a large arroyo. views of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Palmer- Rose House 35

Architecture Firm of light, scale, and material on the sloped site. the landscape outside. A continuous skylight
Gary Marinko Architects The south courtyard, an outdoor room located along the length of the corrugated metal roof
Location at the rear of the house, is the first space that illuminates these spaces with diffuse light
Perth, Western Australia, visitors enter when they arrive at the complex. softened by the tree canopy. A secondary
Australia This textural outdoor space is paved with river earthen wall perpendicular to the long exterior
Date rocks and stone and is surrounded on all sides wall, punctured with openings for light and
1998 by the main house, guesthouse, carport, and views, separates the more private spaces of the
a retaining wall. The marri tree canopy 197 feet house from the main living room and kitchen.
The Margaret River wine-growing region overhead creates a natural ceiling above the The living room is more akin to an interior
of Western Australia is known for its beaches, tall perimeter walls. From this courtyard, the courtyard with a concrete floor and a plywood
vineyards, farmland, and forests. Home to entry to the house is perpendicular to a long ceiling, enclosed on three sides by earthen
the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, which stabilized and reinforced rammed earth wall walls. A kitchen and a massive earthen fire-
stretches for 75 miles along the hilly coast of that creates a datum along which the entrance, place flank each end of the room, and the
the Indian Ocean, the landscape is filled with bathrooms, bedrooms, and storage are orga- north-facing wall is defined by a rhythm of
tall trees whose canopies dissolve into patterns nized, each space separated by earthen walls. earthen columns. Like the plywood furniture
of light. Gary Marinko Architects took advan- The cement-stabilized walls contain a unique found elsewhere in the house, the entire wall
tage of this unique landscape, creating a house mixture of soils that differs from the typical can be opened or closed with folding shutters
defined by terraces and walls that grow from use of Australian red earth for rammed earth that allow residents to moderate the amount
the soil and weave through the dense tree- in the region. Limestone, yellow sand, and and quality of light that enters the room.
stands, guiding the eye from spaces shaped white cement give the walls a bright, reflective When open, the space expands past a sundeck
by earth, wood, and light toward breath- color. Finely crushed granite added to this mix toward framed views of the Boodjidup
taking views. makes the wall sparkle in the sunlight. Inside Brook at the base of the site and the distant
The house comprises a series of paved each room plywood furniture unfolds from untouched landscape beyond.
terraces, enclosed exterior areas, and retaining the walls, reminiscent of the retaining walls
walls that define spaces with various qualities and courtyards that seem to unfold from

opposite, top: Rammed earth walls of opposite, bottom: The entire north wall can
varying heights climb the hillside to define be opened or closed with folding plywood
outdoor and indoor spaces. shutters that moderate the amount and
quality of light and heat entering the space.


Poll House, Margaret River

Floor plan


top: With its expansive glass walls, the bottom: Wood furniture and partitions
living room is like an indoor courtyard with complement the rammed earth walls
a large fireplace at one end. and separate the more private spaces of
the house.

Poll House , Margaret River 39

architecture firm buildings in Australia today. The combination using solar-powered pumps, to an evaporative
Marci Webster-Mannison of rammed earth and advanced computer- cooling system where a mist spray waterfall
Location controlled environmental systems that engage located in the air circulation system substan-
Thurgoona, New South Wales, both passive and active technologies had never tially lowers the air temperature by increasing
Australia been used before in a university environment. its humidity. Storm- and gray water from
Date Even more unique, most buildings on the the buildings is treated in man-made wetlands
19962003 Thurgoona Campus were designed and con- that are part of the campuss landscaping.
structed by the CSU staff. Because the recycled water is ultimately
In 1996, the faculty and staff of the Thurgoona The master plan for the campus took cleaner than the local drinking water and all
Campus of Charles Sturt University in New into account many important considerations, of the buildings use dry-compost toilets,
South Wales, Australia, set out to create a new including the local context, the condition of the campus is not connected to the main sewer
kind of university environmentone that the site, and the potential to harness wind, system, and all water is eventually cycled into
employs some of the most innovative ecologi- sun, and rain. All of the buildings employ a retaining ponds, promoting the natural
cal strategies ever used in campus architecture similar set of ecological systems and use ecology of the site.
and planning. This new university branch ecological materials. Rainwater from the roof All of the buildings on the campus are
was built near the city of Albury on a 215- collects in steel tanks and is circulated into sited to take advantage of seasonal and daily
acre site that had suffered generations of land an array of solar collector panels mounted on solar conditions by allowing the suns warmth
clearing and farming, resulting in poor soils, the roof, where it is heated with the suns to penetrate the building during the colder
erosion, and invasive vegetation growth. energy. This water is stored in insulated tanks months and reducing heat gain from the rising
The hot, dry summers, freezing winters, and where the temperature can be increased by and setting sun in the warm season. South-
fragile site demanded additional consideration a gas boiler; it can then be used for domestic facing clerestory windows admit light to the
as the scheme was developed. Marci Webster- purposes or circulated via a computer- buildings interiors, and in the winter, the
Mannison, the Campus Director of Design controlled system through a radiant heating warmth of direct sunlight enters through
at the time, led a design team that brought system within the concrete floors during north-facing windows and is collected in the
together traditional and up-to-date technolo- the cooler months. concrete floors and the unstabilized rammed
gies through careful planning, architecture, The same roof-mounted panels that heat earth walls used throughout the campus.
and landscape design to create a series of water also perform the opposite task, taking The thermal mass provided by the 12- to 24-
award-winning structures. Ranging from advantage of the cool night air during the tem- inch-thick rammed earth walls also helps
housing to research facilities, they are some of perate seasons. An ingenious air-conditioning maintain comfortable temperatures within the
the most environmentally sensitive public system is created by circulating this water, buildings. Natural wool insulates secondary

opposite, top: The teaching wing of the opposite, bottom: Technologies replace
C. D. Blake Theatre Complex is defined architectural motifs: a solar collector
by galvanized metal water tanks, solar panel articulates the entrance to the
collector panels, and rammed earth. auditorium.

Thurgoona Campus
of Charles Sturt University

walls and roofs, which are also clad with cor- staff members and postgraduate students, a cottages named the Rothwells. Between
rugated steel to reflect the suns rays. Thermal Mapping and Teaching Room, an Information 2000 and 2002, six buildings accommodating
chimneys that punctuate the roofline help Technology Hub, and a Herbarium, which forty-six beds with laundry facilities were
keep temperatures comfortable by drawing contains living examples of regional fauna. constructed; and in 2003, another rammed
hot air out of the building. Large eaves and sun Because of the use of alternative materials, the earth building, the Student Association, the
shading devices are also common features; cost of the building is estimated to be between center for students living and working on
they protect the buildings from the high angle 4 and 14 percent less than a conventional the campus, was completed.
of the summer sun while allowing for the structure of this type. Plans for additional buildings follow-
penetration of low winter sun. The C. D. Blake Theatre Complex was ing the ecological concepts set forth by
The first building constructed using these completed next. Its program includes a two- the campuss first buildings are ongoing,
principles was a student pavilion, completed in story teaching complex that contains two and the projects have had an influence that
1996. In addition to demonstrating the ideals thirty-seat tutorial rooms and two theaters has extended beyond its grounds. The success
set forth by the campus staff, it laid the one that accommodates one hundred of Thurgoona has also prompted other
groundwork for the series of ambitious build- occupants and a larger two-hundred-seat local groups, including a church and a local
ings that was to come next. Next built was lecture theater that has an earth-covered roof college, to construct their new buildings in
the School of Environmental and Information to help maintain the thermal quality of the rammed earth.
Sciences. With two stories and 31,958 square space. The expanding universitys next
feet of space, it accommodates one hundred project was a series of rammed earth student

left: Thermal chimneys, which draw right: Clerestory windows admit light
out rising hot air, punctuate the roofline into the auditorium foyer.
of the School of Environmental and
Information Sciences.

Corrugated metal sun-shading devices
around the windows protect the interior
from the high angle of the summer sun but
allow the low winter sun to penetrate.

Architecture Firm Subsequently, in January 1985 the GDR alternatively selected wood and clay to
Reitermann and Sassenroth razed the nave and steeple using explosives. construct the buildingsignificant because a
Location The images of the destruction were televised historic clay mine once existed adjacent to the
Berlin, Germany internationally. church property. The chapel was the first load-
Date Less than five years after the destruction bearing earthen religious building in Germany
2000 of the church, the Berlin wall was removed, and the first public rammed earth structure
uniting Germany once again. The grounds of there in 150 years. The clay used to construct
In 1985 the Church of Reconciliation was the former church, then marked by tall grass, the walls was brought from the nearby town
destroyed by German Democratic Republic two concrete patrol paths, and the remains of of Herzfelde, on the outskirts of Berlin, and
(GDR) border troops. The historic neo-Gothic the church foundation, were given back to mixed with the ground remains of the demol-
Evangelical brick church, consecrated on the community, and the congregation quickly ished church. Crushed brick, tile, and nails, all
August 28, 1894, had an unfortunate location. began to consider what should be done with remnants of the previous church, are embed-
With the swift construction of the Berlin wall the property. While many wanted to erase ded in the walls and visible on their surface,
in 1961, the church, located in the prohibited the history of the citys division as soon as preserving the tumultuous history of the site.
no-mans-land between East and West Berlin, possible, the community instead conceived of The heart of this small, oval building is
was closed off from the city literally overnight. a plan for a new chapel to commemorate the an ovoid room constructed of rammed earth,
Caught within this zone, the building tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. enclosing the worship space. While the shape
remained inaccessible to anyone for more than Rudolf Reitermann and Peter Sassenroth, of the space designates the traditional east-
twenty years. Because of its awkward position two young Berlin architects, were offered west axis of Christian churches by aligning the
in what was called the death strip, the build- the commission to design the new Chapel of entrance of the room to the altar, a secondary
ing created a problem for the GDR, who Reconciliation on the site of the previous axis is created by an alcove where the recovered
patrolled the wall to prevent any crossing to church. Their initial proposal called for con- altar section of the previous church is stored.
the west: the long detour around the church crete and glass, but the community considered It marks the center of the preexisting nave and
made patrol routes difficult, and the steeple these materials representative of the oppres- faces the direction of the original aisle and
was an obstruction to their line of fire. sive wall that had divided their cities and entrance. The new rammed earth altar, which

opposite: Wood louvers surround the

rammed earth chapel.


Chapel of Reconciliation

houses the baptism and communion vessels, massive noise-absorbing walls and floor
rests atop the original churchs stone refectory creates a space for contemplation separated
and is embedded in the floor, creating another from the busy urban streets of Berlin. Only
connection to the buried remains of the the constantly changing light that enters from
previous church. Steps that at one time went the large skylight at the center of the roof offers
down to the basement are now visible through a connection to the outside. At night, the
a window placed in the earthen floor. Upon buildings screen is illuminated from inside as
the steps rests an unexploded bomb from a beacon that symbolizes unification
World War II that was discovered during the The building was constructed without
excavation process. any heating or air-conditioning system.
An enclosure of vertical wood louvers While this was considered risky at the time,
encapsulates the entire rammed earth struc- it has proved to be one of the most celebrated
ture. While this screen allows for the passage features of the church. Though the walls
of light and air, it is a perceptible threshold thermal mass has the ability to temper radical
between exterior and interior and marks the shifts in temperature, the building is not
beginning of a series of experiences that entirely weathertight. Thus, various seasonal
distance the outside from the inner sanctuary. and religious events are heightened by the
The thick rammed earth walls add a second experience of a living building where heat and
layer of separation: silence created by the cold and dark and light can be celebrated.

Site plan showing location of previous Axonometric drawings


top left: An impression in the thick top right: A wood screen and rammed bottom: At night the chapel is illuminated to
rammed earth wall of the chapel houses earth wall offer a sense of isolation from become a glowing symbol of unification.
an altar section recovered from the the city.
previous church.

Chapel of Reconciliation 47
Organiz ation with a gift of land at the intersection of proper- steel structure in a fish-scale pattern. The
Rural Studio ties owned by three different families. Because lightweight steel frame also supports the
Location the property symbolized a meeting point in aluminum roof that reflects the colors of the
Masons Bend, Alabama the community, Rural Studio students chose earthen walls and the surrounding landscape,
Date to construct on it a multifunction civic build- further adding to the ethereal quality of
2000 ing made of a shrewd combination of recycled the space.
materials and Hale County red earth. The entire roof system is supported by
During the Great Depression, the U.S. govern- Because the property lies on the intersec- laminated cypress beams harvested from
ment widely promoted rammed earth build- tion of two roads, it provided the perfect nearby Akron. These heavy beams are attached
ing to provide low-cost housing for the poor. opportunity to create an architectural land- to steel supports embedded in a concrete bond
In Gardendale, Alabama, in the 1930s, the mark that was visible to anyone coming to the beam that sits on the thick rammed earth walls.
Gardendale Homesteads project funded by community. The open-air structure, whose The locally sourced walls are made of 30 per-
the U.S. Resettlement Administration built form was inspired by vernacular architecture cent clay, 70 percent sand, and a small amount
68 single-story homes on 512 acres; several of of the region, allows the community to meet in of portland cement to help protect the walls
them were prototype houses constructed a cool, shaded space. Informal and formal from the heavy Alabama rains. Long arms
of rammed earth. The success of these experi- events take place here: it is the stopping point of rammed earth reaching out to the commu-
mental houses, some of which are still used for a regional book mobile as well as the coun- nity from entrances on opposing sides of
today, was inspirational to students designing tys mobile health clinic, and it is a meeting the building guide approaching visitors into
a community center in 1999 in one of the place for a local prayer group. The humble yet the structure. Outside, these extensions are
poorest counties in the United States. sublime quality of light created by the partially protected with rusted steel caps that have
Masons Bend, not so far from Gardendale glazed roofwhich gives the building its alter- taken on a hue similar to the iron-rich soil used
and deep within the Black Belt of rural native name, the Glass Chapelcreates an to construct the walls. On the interior, the
Alabama, is nestled in an oxbow on Hale exhilarating space of reflection inside. steel cap is replaced by a concrete bond beam
Countys Black Warrior River. Four extended The glass portion of the roof is made up that follows the various heights of the rammed
families have lived there in poverty for genera- of eighty 1985 Chevrolet Caprice side-door earth wall, taking on various architectural
tions, occupying ramshackle trailers and windows, purchased by the students for and programmatic functions: giving the walls
shacks. For many years, Rural Studio, $120 from a scrap yard in Chicago, Illinois. structural stability, supporting the roof, or
part of the architecture program at Auburn The students ingeniously used the ready- serving as a bench while complementing the
University, has built innovative homes for made holes in the glass, by which the cypress benches and tables that rest upon
Masons Bend residents, and to thank them mechanism that raised and lowered the win- the humble gravel floor inside.
one of the recipients presented the studio dow was attached, to secure the panes to a

opposite: The glass for the roof is partially

constructed of eighty 1985 Chevrolet
Caprice side-door windows, which hang
from a delicate steel structure.

Masons Bend Community Center

Floor plan


top left: The iron-rich Alabama soil gives top right: Located at the intersection
the rammed earth walls that reach out of two main roads, the center is a
to the community a vibrant red color. community landmark.

The community gathers in the celebratory
space beneath the airy roof structure.

Mason s Bend Communit y Center 51

Architecture Firm as well as a major tourist attraction. Run by traditionsallows rammed earth to achieve
Grieve Gillette and Cox Architects the University of Adelaide, the center offers such proportions.
Location courses in oenology, mounts exhibits in wine From this central spine of the vertical
Adelaide, South Australia making, and hosts tastings of wine from terroir emerges a structure of laminated hoop
Date various regions in Australia. An extension of pine and transverse steel tension cables that is
2001 Adelaides 125-acre Botanical Garden, the inspired by the grape vines and their support-
Wine Centre preserves two and a half acres for ing trellis. The use of wood also reflects the
South Australia, Australias leading wine- a vineyard containing 500 grapevines that traditional role of barrels, which give wine its
producing region, has embraced a modern, display seven of the most important varieties complexity; they are referenced in the shape of
scientific approach to viticulture, making it of grapes used in making red and white wine. the structure, which forms a half-arc to suggest
the global leader in production research and Visitors can walk among the rows of vines, the shape of the casks that house wine beneath
education. Grieve Gillette and Cox Architects which are organized in a semicircular pattern the earth in traditional cellars.
adopted this progressive approach in their that mirrors the plan of the buildings. As visitors move through sequentially
design of a building conceived from the mate- The building emerges from the earth organized spacesexhibits, educational
rials and forms found in ancient and modern much like a vine from the soil. In fact, soil facilities, and restaurantsthe materials and
wine-making traditions. By connecting taken from all the leading wine districts experience of the building become progres-
visitors to the landscape of the modern vine- in Australia was brought to the site and com- sively refined, a parallel to how grapes are
yard and giving them the experience of several pacted to form the largest rammed earth refined into wine. Glass and stainless steel,
aspects of the cultural and production process, wall in the Southern Hemisphere. The main commonly found in the fermentation vats in
the National Wine Centre in Adelaide pro- entrance to the building is alongside this mas- modern wineries, are used in the final stop
motes an understanding of an experience sive wall, which serves as a central spine off on the tour, a wine-tasting room. Here, at
that goes from the soil to the glass. of which the architecture grows. The great the terminus of the grand arced promenade,
This flagship of Australian wine making height and slenderness of the wall is achieved visitors view the vineyard through large
was built to promote the growing industry and by a reinforcing steel structure thatjust as windows, contemplating the beauty of
to serve as an educational and cultural center, modern technology bolsters wine-making architecture and wine with glass in hand.

opposite, top: The Wine Centre is sited opposite, bottom left: Earth, steel, wood, opposite, bottom right: The multi-
at the edge of Adelaides 125-acre and glass used in the construction of the layered space is enclosed by a grand
Botanical Garden, where 500 grapevines National Wine Centre parallel the terroir, roof structure supported by laminated
in a semicircular pattern reflect the plan trellis, barrels, and bottles of wine present hoop pine beams.
of the building. in the wine-making process.

West elevation

National Wine Centre

Floor plan Roof structure


The immense rammed earth wall, an archi- Directional: This is dummy text.
tectural terroir constructed of soils taken Lorem ipsum dolor. Proin turpis augue,
from Australias leading wine districts, pretium vitae.
guides visitors through the Centre.
Architecture Firm year. During that time, the comparatively encloses the restrooms, offices, and storage
Grimshaw Architects small rammed earth visitor center accommo- for the center, all housed beneath the green
Location dated 2 million people who had come to watch roof. Overhead, a series of fabric tensile struc-
Cornwall, United Kingdom the building of the largest greenhouses in tures shade the courtyard and lead to the
Date the world. entrance to the visitor centers main hall,
2000 Comprising two adjacent buildings, accessible through an opening in the rammed
the center is situated at the edge of a 37-acre earth wall. Inside, the space gives way to shops
The Eden Project, the leading tourist attraction site that was once a quarry for mining china- selling plants, cafes, exhibit halls, and educa-
in the United Kingdom, is considered by many quality clay and derives its crescent shaped tional galleries. An underlying steel structure
to be the eighth wonder of the world. The com- plan from the contours of the enormous pit. makes the large open spaces possible and sup-
plex comprises a number of immense domes The buildings are intentionally concealed ports the aluminum-clad roof that protects the
that house plant species from rain forests and from the parking lot by a green roof that allows rammed earth wall from rain. Because this
warm temperate regions around the world. the soap bubblelike biomes to take visual wall is not structural, it acts more like an infill
Welcoming visitors to the site is the Eden precedent. A long, subtly curved rammed within the steel structurea modern interpre-
Project Visitor Centre. While it is often over- earth wall that extends the length of the build- tation of English wattle and daub or cob houses
looked because of the architectural penumbra ing welcomes visitors, drawing them into the that are traditionally found in Cornwall. On
created by the enormous biomes, this center courtyard-like street defined on one side by the the opposite end of the building a viewing deck
serves as an important introduction to Eden, wall, which is made of high-quality clay taken offers a dramatic view into the clay mine and
offering educational programs and exhibits directly from the site. On the other side, a the biomes, whose forms and high-tech mate-
while architecturally embodying the ecological gabion retaining wall holds back the soil that rials are accentuated by the contrasting natural
philosophies of the park. Although the visitor forms the green roof seen from the parking lot. materials of the visitor center.
center was completed in 2000, the biomes Farther into the courtyard, the gabions
were not open to the public until the following give way to a split-cedar shingle facade that

opposite, top: Curving earthen walls and opposite, bottom: The biomes are
a tensile fabric roof create a dynamic space slowly revealed on the approach to the
at the entrance to the center. visitor center.


Eden Project Visitor Centre

Site plan

Floor plan

top: The enormous intersecting hexagonal bottom left: A view of the grand site bottom right: The ceiling seems to float
geodesic biomes in the former china-clay is presented to visitors entering the above the walls, providing well-lit open
pit are visible from the center. main hall. spaces inside the visitor center for
exhibits, cafes, and galleries.

Eden Project Visitor Centre 59

Architecture Firm park grounds and the surrounding urban where events can take place. This is also the
Roger Boltshauser Architekten context. location from where nature paths lead out to
Location The buildings store tools and sports the rest of the site.
Zrich, Switzerland equipment, provide a ticket sale and infor- The chronometry tower, located next to
Date mation kiosk for the facility, and elegantly the running track, houses time measurement
2002 reference the classically inspired gymnasium. equipment, the finish-line camera, and a work
The sharp-edged concrete found in the roof space where the towers operator times the
Located on an island in the Sihl River in Zrich slab, entrance, and skylights of the storage track-and-field events. Two large windows
is the oldest historic sports ground in the sheds is a nod to the concrete structure of the puncture the thick walls at the corners without
citythe Sihlhlzli Sports Facility. The com- gymnasium, and the 18-inch-thick rammed revealing any lintel, which gives the illusion
plex consists of over 13 acres of playing fields, earth walls reflect the contrasting brown of thinness to the structure while providing
a gymnasium, walking paths, a music pavilion, stucco infill between the gymnasiums con- an uninterrupted view of the running track
playgrounds, and a wading pool, organized crete columns. As the rammed earth used in from inside. In order to support its height and
on an axial plan in 1932 by architect Hermann all the buildings does not contain a stabilizing additional floor, the towers walls are made
Herter. When the original temporary storage agent, such as cement, at every 18 inches a of 24-inch-thick rammed earth. A concrete
buildings that served the sports and leisure - to 1-inch-thick cement layer was poured slab was poured directly on top of the rammed
grounds had to be replaced, architect Roger to help prevent the surface from eroding. A earth walls to create the first floor and the
Boltshauser was asked to design two perma- wall and two clerestory openings of glass block roof. Sandwiching the slab between layers of
nent storage buildings and a Zielturm, or are also a nod to the fenestration of the rammed earth articulates the compressed
chronometry tower, to time track events. gymnasium. nature of the walls construction and intensi-
His design drew from the historic axial plan The northern toolshed is located near the fies the textural and dimensional quality of the
of the facility as well as from Herters gymna- entrance of the grounds so that it can occasion- building materials. It also evokes the relation-
sium sited between the two former creeks ally be used as a kiosk. The southern storage ship between nature and the urban that is
surrounding the island. The use of rammed shed lies opposite, on the embankment facing reflected in the park and the surrounding city.
earth and concrete allows the two small the riverbed, which creates a symmetry that
outbuildings to mediate between the natural defines a courtyard in front of the gymnasium

opposite: The chronometry tower

Sihlhlzli Sports Facility

Storage Sheds and Chronometry Tower

Various floor plans, elevations, sections of storage shed 1, storage shed 2, chronometry tower

left: The northern toolshed/kiosk is right: A courtyard is created between

located near the entrance to the grounds. the two storage buildings in front of the

left: Rich earth tones are heightened by right: Subtle lines in the wall surface
the gray concrete and the northern indicate where thin layers of cement were
European sky. poured to help prevent erosion in the
wall surface.

Sihlhlzli Sports Facilit y Storage Sheds and Chronometry Tower 63

Architecture Firm time-honored traditions of building with and private functions of the house, and opened
Atelier FCJZ tu mu, earth and wood. it to the views of the valley. A natural stream
Location The techniques used to construct the on the site was rerouted through the center
Yanqing, Beijing rammed earth walls are based on local con- of the courtyard and below the glass entrance-
Date struction methods. Local soil was mixed with lobby floor. The concept of splitting also
2002 coarse jute fabric, and lime was added as a sta- divides the functions of the two primary mate-
bilizer to provide added strength. At various rials. The thick, rammed earth walls enclose
The Chinese are the worlds most prolific increments, bamboo was placed horizontally the house with minimal environmental
builders in earth; there are an estimated 90 within the wall to reinforce itsimilar to impact. However, the walls are not struc-
million homes in China employing mud brick, embedding rebar in a concrete walland to turalinstead, the laminated wood frame
wattle and daub, and rammed earth. Thirty prevent expansion, which can cause cracking. supports the roof and second story. Because
thousand earth houses, dating mostly from the The Split House also reconsiders the the house is split into two halves, each with
Ming and Qing dynasties (13681911), can be traditional Beijing si he yuan, or courtyard two floors, it is possible to use only half of
found in Fujian Province, which also contains houses, that make up much of Beijings his- the house when the number of occupants is
the incredible rammed earth, multistory, toric center; and it transplants this typology low, keeping maintenance costs to a minimum.
round, clan courtyard houses of the Hakka. from its dense urban site to the context of the Yung Ho Chang designed the house to be a
The best-known Chinese achievement is per- pristine mountain valley, among mountains flexible prototype, able to adapt to the specific
haps the Great Wall, largely constructed of and water, or shan shui. Unlike the urban conditions of various sites. The relationship
rammed earth and one of the worlds master- typology from which it is derived, which between the two halves of the prototype can
pieces of military architecture. creates a courtyard enclosed on all sides by be altered to best fit specific sites within the
The Split House is located in the Jundu the building, the two halves of the Split House valley in response to views, streams, topogra-
Mountains north of Beijing, not far from the enclose two sides of the courtyard, and the phy, and the proximity of the mountains that
Great Wall. Designed by Yung Ho Chang, mountains of the valley enclose the other half, complete the courtyard. The same set of pro-
the founder of the first private architectural thus blurring the distinction between nature grammatic, material, and formal elements that
firm in China and head of the Department and architecture and creating a new type, shan make the house parallel can also evolve in
of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute shui si he yuana courtyard house with response to different contexts to create new
of Technology, it draws from Chinas mountain and water. house typologies: right angle, bar, singular,
legacy of earthen construction. The result Splitting the house preserved trees that and back-to-back.
is a contemporary design that recalls the already existed on the site, separated the public

opposite: The surrounding mountain valley

completes the courtyard of the Split House,
blurring the distinction between nature
and architecture.

Split House

Second-floor plan

First-floor plan Possible variations on the prototype

top: The house was split in the center bottom: A glass facade defines one side
to preserve existing trees and separate the of the courtyard and brings the landscape
public and private functions of the house. into the houses interior.

Split House 67
Architecture Firm away from it to define the burial grounds. whose subtle details, defined by the use of
Marte.Marte The walls were constructed of soil taken wood and light, are heightened by its purity.
Location directly from the excavation of the church Visitors enter the chapel through two large,
Batschuns, Vorarlberg, Austria grounds, without the addition of any stabiliz- asymmetrical, untreated oak doors, whose
Date ing additives. Earth was poured into formwork wood was harvested in Vorarlberg. Inside,
2001 atop a reinforced concrete foundation and light from a slot in the ceiling overhead illumi-
compacted into 5 -inch-high layers using nates the compacted layers of earth. The
The Cemetery Extension and Chapel of pneumatic tampers. Embedded in the walls of horizontal layers combined with a vertical
Rest is located in the village of Batschuns in the chapel are a concrete bond beam that pro- strip of wood embedded in the wall evoke the
rural Austria, adjacent to a serene meadow, vides lateral stabilization and a pipe that drains form of the Christian cross. Another wall
mortuary chapel, columbarium, and burial water from the roof. hovers over a slot at floor level, illuminating
ground overlooking grand views of the Rhine Just as members of the congregation par- the space by reflecting light off the polished
Valley and the Vorarlberg countryside. This ticipated in the construction of the historic rammed earth floor and calling into question
project was the winning entry in a competition church in 1923, community members, led by the solidity and heaviness of earth. This subtle
whose aim was to expand the burial grounds master clay builder Martin Rauch, assisted in detail is accomplished by a steel beam con-
and create a mortuary chapel to serve an the construction of the walls of the new chapel, cealed in the rammed earth that suspends the
existing church and cemetery designed by which allowed the small project to be con- wall above the floor.
the prominent modern architect Clemens structed within budget. Utilizing a process Outside, two rammed earth walls extend
Holzmeister that was completed in 1923. called calculated erosion by the builder, the away from the chapel and enclose the gravel-
Because the municipality of nearby 18-inch-thick walls are slightly overdimen- covered burial grounds. The shorter of these
Zwischenwasser, host of the competition, sioned, a measure that accommodates for walls is 3 feet thick and defines one entrance to
recognized the importance of their historic erosion and gives the walls a hundred-year the grounds created by a gap between it and the
architecture, great care was taken in selecting life spana conservative estimate by the historic cemetery walls. The longer wall slopes
the winner. Though there was no precedent architects. up toward the meadow, turns a corner, and
for a mortuary chapel executed in rammed The interior of the chapel is a space increases in height. This taller portion of the
earth, the jury selected the elegant and mini- entirely enclosed by earth. A rammed earth wall is a columbarium where names of the
mal design by sibling architects Bernhard floor is treated with wax and polished, which deceased are commemorated in copper script
and Stefan Marte of Marte.Marte. makes it more resistant to water damage. and remains are stored in steel frames embed-
The project consists of a cube-shaped Special panels that can hold clay plaster were ded in the rammed earth.
rammed earth chapel placed in the corner of used for the ceiling, and the continuity of
the site with two earth walls that extend earthen surfaces creates a minimalist space

opposite, top: The cemetery extension opposite, bottom: A gap between walls
includes a mortuary chapel, an urn wall, of the historic cemetery and the new
and a burial ground sited on a gently addition defines the entrance to the site.
sloping hill with a grand view of the Rhine
Valley and the Vorarlberg countryside.

Cemetery Extension and

Chapel of Rest

Section and detail of the floating rammed earth wall

Section with detail of recessed light embedded in rammed earth wall

Floor plan Elevation

top left: The two large asymmetrical oak bottom left: A vertical piece of wood right: A rammed earth wall floats above
doors were made from wood harvested embedded into the horizontal layers of the floor, creating a slot that illuminates
in Vorarlberg. earth evokes the form of the the interior.
Christian cross.

Cemetery E x tension and Chapel of Rest 71

Design Firm inhabits, in its use of massive earth walls materials and forms, however. Jemez Springs
Predock Frane Architects and metal roofs the building is uniquely con- is located in a high-altitude desert with an
Location temporary. The center also combines those extreme range of temperatures, and these
Jemez Springs, New Mexico elements with interpretations of Japanese Zen materials also provide active and passive envi-
Date Buddhist architecture. Here the use of con- ronmental controls. The thermal mass of
2003 trasting natural and synthetic materials, the rammed earth walls keeps out the hot
passive and active environmental systems, and temperatures of the summer and radiates this
New Mexico is the epicenter of earthen con- relationships between lightness and heaviness stored heat during the cold desert nights.
struction in North America, but most create an impressive space dedicated to the Thermal transfer is also limited by the multi-
buildings are historic mud brick structures, daily ritual of traditional Zen practice. layer polycarbonate walls, which serve as an
the legacy of either the Native Americans or Monks and students enter from opposite insulator. The cantilevered roof edges, over-
the Spanish settlers who have occupied New sides of the building between the rammed hanging as much as 14 feet in places, block the
Mexico since the sixteenth century. Because of earth and polycarbonate walls that define the summer sun but allow the lower winter sun to
strict zoning regulations, new buildings con- space where rituals take place every day penetrate the openings to warm the interior
structed of earth often emulate the styles that between sunrise and sunset. At dawn, sunlight and the rammed earth walls. Sliding panels 36
emerged from these vernacular traditions; pierces through pieces of plate glass turned on feet long on the east facade and the entry doors
therefore, rarely in New Mexico is an earthen edge and built into a series of sliding wood to the west enable summer breezes to flow
building a reflection of modern architectural panels that make up the east facade, creating a through the building, providing additional
design. The Center of Gravity Foundation Hall, luminous glow that marks the beginning of cooling through cross ventilation. The hot
designed by John Frane and Hadrian Predock the day. By midday, ambient light fills the room water from the springs for which Jemez
of Predock Frane Architects, however, is an through a slot between the hovering, folded Springs is named heats the building via radia-
exception. roof and translucent polycarbonate walls that tors located at the perimeter of the buildings
The Foundation Hall is part of the Bodhi are a counterpoint to the thick rammed earth. interior.
Mandala Zen Center, a Buddhist compound in These walls, similar to both the rice paper Because of the translucent walls and
Jemez Springs, New Mexico, that has served walls of traditional Japanese architecture transparent glass below the eaves, artificial
as a center for the study of Buddhism for more and the deerskin or mica windows of Native light is not needed for reading during most
than thirty years. Used primarily as a teaching American and Spanish architecture in of the daylight hours, reducing the buildings
and meditation hall for the compound, the Northern New Mexico, create an even glow life-cycle costs. The soil used to construct
building is also used as a community meeting inside. Later in the day, the western walls glow the rammed earth walls was recycled from an
place for the town of Jemez Springs and serves with the same intensity as the surrounding excavation at a nearby construction site.
as a retreat and meeting place for people and mountains at sunset. At night, recessed lights Further ecological consideration was taken
organizations across the country. in the interior illuminate the building through by using beams made of recycled wood that
While the building references elements the translucent wall panels, transforming the support the hovering roof, which itself drains
found in traditional New Mexican architec- building into a lantern. water into a catch basin for use in irrigation.
ture, as well as the architecture of the former Beautiful phenomenological experiences
Boy Scout camp that the Zen Center now are not the only outcome of the buildings

opposite, top: North elevation opposite, bottom: Indirect light

illuminates the interior.

Center of Gravity Foundation Hall

Site plan Floor plan


Translucent polycarbonate panels
reference the rice paper walls of traditional
Japanese architecture.

Center of Gravit y Foundation Hall 75

Architecture Firm ecosystems that surround the housea large gnarled eighty-year-old oak trees. The roof
Cutler Anderson Architects vineyard and a grove of mature oak trees. The slopes to a single corner where, during rain-
Location house reflects the division of environments storms, water pours into yet another small
Napa Valley, California present on the property with a material palette outdoor pool that forms the terminus of the
Date divided into wood and earth. Exquisitely trellised walkway leading to the study.
2003 joined timber makes up the primary structure Similarly to the guesthouse, it is enclosed by
of the house, contrasted by rammed earth 30-inch-thick slightly inclined rammed earth
The Residence at Meteor Vineyards is a 12,300- walls and columns. An inverted-gable butter- walls that define an L-shaped enclosure reach-
square-foot private house on a 27-acre site fly roof channels water into an outdoor pool ing out into the old oak trees and extending
amid vineyards, rolling meadows, and oak adjacent to the main living area, which is the view through an expansive glass wall.
groves. Cutler Anderson Architects saw marked by a massive two-story rammed
the abundance of vegetation, earth, and eco- earth chimney.
systems present on the site as an opportunity The axis leading from the main house to
to design a residence that incorporated ele- the guesthouse is a 130-foot-long bridge that
ments and experiences found in the diverse floats above the ground, allowing the guests to
landscape. Soils found on the property are walk over the vineyard. The bridge extends
varied in type and color and, in addition to through the symmetrical rammed earth guest-
growing grapes, they produce rock-hard house and splits the massive walls, which
rammed earth walls. The walls of the house creates the entrance to the house, provides
were made from soil collected from different access to a smaller pool, and frames the view of
areas on the property and compacted in layers, the hills beyond. A V-shaped metal roof hover-
creating a wavy, marblelike stratification ing above the earthen walls, supported by a
that accentuates the diverse colors. To allow wood structure, creates a band of clerestory
varying experiences of the natural qualities windows that brings light into the space. As in
of the site, the large residence was divided into the main house, the inverted gable roof fun-
three distinct parts: a main house organized nels water into the pool. Inside are three guest
within an L-shaped plan, with a study and a rooms; from each, a small balcony accessed
guesthouse placed at each end. by double doors punctures the rammed earth
The main house comprises a grand dining walls, offering a view out over the vineyard.
room, living area, bedrooms, and outdoor At the other end of this L-shaped plan is
terraces with dramatic views of the two major the study, 360 square feet and surrounded by

right: Soil from various parts of the site opposite, top: East elevation
create a marblelike pattern in the rammed opposite, bottom: West facade of
earth walls. guesthouse at dusk

Residence at Meteor Vineyards

Site plan

top left: Wood joinery is a counterpoint top right: From the study, a wall bottom: Eighty-year-old oak trees
to the canted rammed earth walls. of glass opens to the views of the oak surround the study.
trees beyond.

Residence at Meteor Vineyards 79

Architecture Firm the link between the sun, the house, and the walls take prominence over all other materials.
John Wardle Architects terroir. The house is divided into two parts, a The earth used to construct the walls was
Location guest wing and a private wing, that are grafted taken from a quarry only 6 miles away.
Victoria, Australia onto the living area via the kitchen, cellar, and Crushed granite, normally used in highway
Date study, which are the pivotal working areas construction, was added, along with a small
2002 the rootstockof the house. The private wing amount of off-white cement as a stabilizer and
contains the master bedroom, and the guest a solvent-based silane water repellent specifi-
The Vineyard Residence was built of rammed wing contains two bedrooms and the garage. cally made to weatherproof stabilized earth
earth and exposed timbers to evoke the quality The prominent position of the house structures. Two inches of insulation were
of a traditional vineyard farmhouse, exemplify offers a panorama that encompasses the vine- sandwiched between the interior and exterior
the owners passion for viticulture, and repre- yards, rolling hills, and Mount Eliza in the of the wall as a thermal break. In reverence for
sent their move from the city to the country. distance. Because of the dramatic vistas in all the soil, all other materials, as well as plumb-
Architect John Wardle exceeded their expecta- directions, a hierarchy of filtered, panoramic, ing and electrical chases, are not integrated into
tions with a design concept that is analogous and framed views was established within the rammed earth walls. A shadow created by
to the grafting of cultivars. He conceived of the house. A screen at the entrance of the the reveal where the floor and ceiling meet the
his clients move from the city to the country house offers privacy while allowing the own- rammed earth wall heightens the distinction
as the grafting of new vines onto old rootstock, ers a filtered view of arriving guests. Panoramic between them and reinforces the importance
and derived every aspect of the houses orien- views are offered from the main living room, of the rammed earth.
tation, program, form, and materials from which opens to a veranda on the north side Other materials in the house take on
this idea. of the building, from the kitchen and its east- aspects of grafting and folding. Additional
The house is a 4,300-square-foot private facing terrace, and from the study, which interior walls are faced with a golden sassafras
residence located in Victoria, Australia, on opens to the garden on the southern facade. veneer and seem to grow from the rammed
the Mornington Peninsula. The 59-acre site is The master bedroom frames a view of the vine- earth walls, unfolding to become shelves
adjacent to a vineyard surrounded by natural yard through a large opening defined by the or places to sit. The wood also clads the ceilings
landscape of manna gum and stringybark trees tapering and angled rammed earth wallsa in the living area, kitchen, and main bedroom.
and cultivated pasture. Within the natural metaphor for a cultivar precisely pruned with The architects use of metal was inspired by
landscape, the house is positioned as thought- shears. This creates a dynamic form on the grape leavesaluminum sheets are contoured
fully as if it were a grape vine and is oriented, exterior and an equally powerful space within to reflect the light from the sun, as is the stain-
like the vines, to the sun: the north elevation the master bedroom, a radical departure from less steel mesh over the ironbark structure
of the house is aligned parallel to the rows the typically static quality of earthen of the veranda. To complete the analogy, a steel
of grape trellises, and the verandas wooden structures. drainage system unfolds from the roof and
shade structure continues past the house, The hierarchy of the vineyard also applies is bent to carry water away from the structure.
extending into the vineyardestablishing to materials used in the house: the earthen

opposite, top: View of the northern opposite, bottom: The terminus of the
rammed earth wall and the ironbark rammed earth wall is a dynamic gesture
veranda toward the vineyard.

Vineyard Residence

Site plan

North elevation

South elevation

East elevation

top left: A glass wall in the master bed- top right: Each column on the veranda bottom left: A steel gutter is folded bottom right: Golden sassafras veneer
room frames a view of the vineyard that is made of two meticulously grafted and bent like grape leaves to carry water unfolds across the surface of the interior,
is defined by the tapering and angled pieces of wood. away from the roof. becoming furniture, such as seats
rammed earth walls. or mantels.

Vineyard Residence 83
Organiz ation three bedrooms, a bathroom, and a living concrete, form an inverted roof profile that
Design Build BLUFF room, to arrive at a 1,200-square-foot off-the- diverts water to a cistern for domestic use,
Location grid home with a budget of $30,000. directs views out to the remote landscape, and
Red Mesa Chapter, The site lacked any utilities, which shades the house from the sun.
Navajo Nation, Utah demanded that most of the work in construct- During winter months, however, the
Date ing the house be done by hand. Electricity to sun penetrates through the south-facing wall
2004 power lighting and small electric appliances in of windows along a hallway within the house.
the house is supplied by photovoltaic panels, The warm air absorbed by the thermal mass
Design Build BLUFF is a semester-long course and a propane tank powers the refrigerator and moves into the bedrooms and living spaces
offered by the University of Utahs College of the stove, but those are the only active energy- through the openings in the rammed earth
Architecture and Planning, dedicated to pro- consuming appliances in the house. The house wall. An insulative wall system made of com-
viding housing for families with unique needs is primarily cooled and heated passively via pacted straw sandwiched between clear acrylic
and in challenging circumstances, predomi- the rammed earth wall, the central spine of the panels keeps the warmth in the house. Doors
nately members of the Navajo Nation. With house that regulates the interior temperature that close off spaces inside a house are not a
the unemployment rate more than double the in both the summer and the winter. This traditional part of Navajo homes, and here
national average and with 43 percent of the 18-inch-thick thermal mass was constructed the architects used this precedent to create a
Navajo Nation population below the poverty with sand and clay excavated from the site constant flow of air between the south-
line, Design Build BLUFF (DBB) provides a and compacted to form an architectural feature and north-facing divisions of the house.
noble service. Founder Hank Louis worked reminiscent of the ancient stone walls con-
with the late Samuel Mockbee in Alabama, structed by the Anasazi, the ancestors of the
and in 2000 he brought the ideas of the Rural Navajo. In the summer, the rammed earth
Studio to the Utah desert. In 2004, eight archi- is in shade, remaining a constant temperature,
tecture students enrolled in Louiss studio but in the winter, it is exposed to direct sun-
designed and built the fourth DBB house over light and stores its heat, radiating its warmth
the course of a semester. The house, innovative back into the house throughout the day and
in both its contextual and cultural responsive- night. This seasonal rhythm is regulated by
ness, was named for client Rosie Joe, who an ingenious and dynamic roof structure cali-
resides there with her family. Rosie selected brated to respond to the position of the sun
the site and humbly requested that the house throughout the year. Trusses made of steel
have a kitchen. To this the students added reinforcing rods, typically used to strengthen

opposite: Located far from utilities on right: The thermal mass from a central
the Navajo reservation, the Rosie Joe spine of rammed earth passively heats
House is powered by photovoltaic panels and cools the house.
and propane.

Rosie Joe House

top: Drawing illustrating how water bottom left: Rosie joe comfortably weaves bottom right: Floor plan
collected from the roof is diverted a traditional Navajo blanket in a space
into a cistern and how the roofs design insulated by compacted straw sandwiched opposite: Metal brackets anchor
responds to seasonal solar angles between translucent acrylic panels above the roof structure to the house.
and below the windows.

Architecture Firm architecture technologies in Japan, the archi- interpretation of a house that blurred the
Manabu + Nez/Loco Architects tects sought to blur the spatial boundaries divisions between inside and outside, land-
Location found within the typical house. Their design scape and architecture, natural and artificial.
Tsukuba, Japan also blurred the boundaries between residen- From the interior, a rammed earth ramp
Date tial construction and large-scale construction. took visitors to the roof, a continuation of
2005 The house was located in a Tokyo sub- the houses open-ended circulation system.
urb on a perfectly flat site that the architects The roof was constructed of portable steel
The number of earthquakes that occur in Japan describe as like any other suburb in Japan. plates, commonly found on construction
has prompted very stringent building codes The soil used to construct the rammed earth sites, where they are used to cover excavations
that do not permit rammed earth construction. walls was taken directly from the excavation or to provide traction for heavy machinery.
Though it possesses very high compressive of the foundations, using construction Here, the large steel plates were supported
strength, it has very little tensile strength, techniques and equipment more commonly entirely by the compacted earth and were
and if it is not reinforced, an earthquake can employed for large-scale earthwork projects welded together to form a continuous roof
crumble rammed earth walls to the ground. than for small residential projects. A new structure that also served as a bridge linking
Nevertheless, Tokyo-based Manabu + Nez/ type of landscape was created using backhoes, indoors, outdoors, and two distinct spaces
Loco Architects proposed using zousei, the rollers, concrete-mixing trucks, and earth within the house. To demonstrate the ability
art of excavating and piling soil, in their entry tampersa topography for living. Canted of the house to return the landscape, when
for a design competition whose brief was to masses of rammed earth were formed to make the exhibition of the house ended, the steel
create a concept house that impinged as little walls, floors, and sloping planes that created plates were removed and the house was left to
as possible on the environment. In addition to a loose division of spaces connected in a vari- erode gradually and be reclaimed by the
questioning the nonacceptance of earth ety of ways. The result was a conceptual surrounding vegetation.

opposite: A rammed earth ramp connected

the interior of the house to the roof.

Diagrammatic sections

Zousei Architecture

Floor plan

left: The house was constructed using center: The roof was constructed of steel right: The house was constructed entirely
techniques and equipment more commonly road plates. with soil from the site, which was returned
found on large-scale earthwork projects to its original state through natural
then on small residential projects. processes.

top: The architects explored zousei, the art bottom: Canted masses of rammed
of excavating and piling soil, in their design earth make walls, floors, and ramps that
for a concept house that blurs the spatial create open, connected spaces.
boundaries found within the typical house.

Zousei Architecture 91
Architecture Firm between the lodges to experience the diverse use different textures of wood representing
Kerry Hill Architects landscapes and cultures of the country. The varying levels of refinement: plywood,
Locations: Amankora Resorts derive their name from local milled lumber, and rough sawn lumber .
Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, the Sanskrit words aman, peace, and kora, a Stone, a common element in Bhutanese archi-
and Gangtey, Bhutan circular pilgrimage, in the national Bhutanese tecture, is employed for interior and exterior
Date language, Dzongkha. Visitors making the flooring surfaces and retaining walls, as well as
2005 pilgrimage between lodges travel through in the construction of massive outdoor tubs.
Bhutans central and western valleys, which Though fabrics designed specifically for the
Most structures in western Bhutan are reach heights of up to 9,800 feet above sea spa were woven from nettle, yak hair, and wool
constructed of earth. Wattle and daub is com- level, through forests and glacial landscapes, and employ traditional motifs and patterns,
monly used for interior walls, but rammed over precarious suspension bridges crossing they appear modern in the spare aesthetic of
earth is the dominant building technique in raging rivers, surrounded by snowcapped the interiors.
the region. From humble houses to massive mountains. Between treks, visitors can enjoy Exterior walls are made of locally sourced
fortified monasteries, buildings are con- respite with modern amenities such as high- soil that was carefully stabilized with a small
structed by compacting soil between wood speed internet, fine dining, spa treatments, amount of cement and waterproofing additive.
shuttering, using handheld tampers, and then and shopping at each lodge. This was then poured into metal formwork
rendered with a white lime plaster to prevent The materials, forms, and proportions and compacted in layers using pneumatic
erosion. Earthen building traditions have used by Kerry Hill Architects in the design tampers; small holes left by the tie-rods that
thrived here because of Bhutans political and are Bhutanese in spirit and are informed by held the formwork together recall the con-
geographic isolation; but recent developments traditional regional architecture. Much of this struction process. The exterior surface is
by aid agencies and tourism have begun to inspiration comes from the remote Gangtey treated with a sealant that prevents moisture
change this well-preserved heritage, and earth Goembaa massive rammed earth monastery penetration. These features make them struc-
is increasingly being replaced with concrete. constructed in the seventeenth century of turally superior to traditional earthen walls
Amankora Bhutan Resorts, however, have wood, earth, and stoneclose to where one and more resilient to seismic activity. Whereas
challenged the increasing influence of mod- of the hotels is sited. The lodges balance con- traditional rammed earth walls are often pro-
ernization in the country. Although tourists temporary and traditional architecture; here, tected with plaster, the exposed earthen walls
pay as much as $4,000 per night for a luxury the past and the future come together in a of the resort ironically suggest a different kind
suite in these five-star accommodations, the spa that has the essence of a monastery. of protectionthat of traditional Bhutanese
architecture reflects much humbler ideals. The interiors are an exercise in contrast- building practices in a global society.
The four resort hotels are located in small ing traditional and contemporary materials.
villages, and tourists are encouraged to travel Floors, interior walls, and ceilings alternatively

opposite: The Amankora Bhutan Resort

lodges are located in forested mountains up
to 9,800 feet above sea level.

Amankora Bhutan Resorts

Gangtey Lodge floor plan

Amankora Lodge floor plan

top: Canted rammed earth walls and bottom left: Small holes in the wall recall bottom right: Interiors are entirely
refined wood detailing are modern takes on the construction process and were created enclosed in different textures of rough-cut,
a centuries-old Bhutanese building by the tie-rods that held the formwork milled, and veneer wood for floors, walls,
tradition. together. and ceilings.

Amankora Bhutan Resorts 95

Architecture Firm by slits of glass, and the roof plane is inter- ways. The long rammed earth wall is exposed
Christopherchris Architecture rupted at the corner by a white cedar volume on the interior, defining a corridor that runs
Location that rests upon the earthen wall and frames a the length of the house, which is visually
Mornington Peninsula, large glass opening. The elegant and complex extended into the landscape as the wall contin-
Victoria, Australia facade, however, is a visual barrier, filtering ues past the glass opening at the terminus of
Date what lies beyond from the eye. At the entry a the hallway. A stained cedar wall also contin-
2006 hint of what is to come is presented through ues through the glass from outside to become
the transparent glass sidelights that surround a closet and storage area, separating the living
Australias Mornington Peninsula, outside of the cedar door, and entering is a visual release, area from the guest bedroom. Light also slips
Melbourne, is known for its farms, wetlands, tantamount to breaking through a dam; the into the interior of the house through long
vineyards, and coastal scenery. When the view is released through a glass facade, across horizontal slits between the rammed earth
young Australian architecture office a wood deck, down the hill, and across the wall and the roof and through tall vertical slots
Christopherchris Architecture was asked to valley to the bucolic landscape beyond. Inside, in the facade; the interior light is either diffuse
design a house on a hill with vast vistas of the house appears much larger than it does or focused depending on the time of day. An
the surrounding landscape, they took it upon from the exterior due to the quality of light in opening in the wall where the first and second
themselves to create a house that controls the the space. The long earthen wall also conceals floors of the house meet contains a small spot
phenomena of views and light by carefully the fact that the house is L-shaped. From the of red glass. Light comes through this window
revealing them through a sequence of experi- interior, at the intersection of the two wings, only for a very brief moment each day, marking
ences that begins upon arrival at the house. a second-story master bedroom, contained the passage of time. A tall, thin piece of red
A long, elegant rammed earth wall that in the elevated white cedar box, acts as a hinge, glass near the entry creates a laser-sharp shaft
runs the entire length of the entry facade is marking the location of the kitchen and the of red light across the floor of the living room
interwoven with several other materials that point from where the three childrens rooms during the afternoon. Because this phenom-
create a striking composition. Dark stained extend out to the landscape to frame the enon lasts for several hours, it becomes a
cedar panels contrast and intersect the light- unsurpassed view. measure of the constantly changing position
colored rammed earth wall to articulate the Careful detailing of materials also brings of the sun and stands in contrast to the vista,
roof and entry. Both earth and wood are broken the exterior inside in a number of remarkable which is timeless and still.

opposite, top: The south side of the house opposite, bottom: View of the valley
is a long, elegant rammed earth wall inter- from the main entrance
woven with dark cedar and glass.

Red Hill Residence

Site plan

bottom left: A large fireplace and entertain- bottom right: Dark panels of stained opposite: The long rammed earth wall is
ment center separates the kitchen from cedar move from the exterior to the exposed both on the exterior and the
the living area. interior, bringing the outside into the interior and defines a corridor that runs
house. the length of the house.

Design Firm design thesis, Powell elected to take on the never exceed 12 inches in width and therefore
Gallo Powell Consortium project from concept through design and con- do not require concrete lintels. The roof is
Location struction drawings and, with the help of his anchored to the wall using long threaded rods
Tucson, Arizona partner, Gallo, the construction of the house. that extend down through the wall and into
Date The design was inspired by the pit houses built the foundation. Irregularities in the earthen
2006 by the Hohokam Native American culture that wall that would make the roof structure
once inhabited the Tucson Basin. Like these difficult to level are resolved by placing 1-inch
The legacy of earthen architecture in Arizona traditional houses, for which builders first dug rigid insulation below a bond beam made
is diverse and extensive. Native Americans, a 2-foot-deep impression in the soil to moder- of wood and a steel channel that is compressed
Latinos, and more recently a growing popula- ate interior temperatures in the harsh desert using the threaded rods. The roof joists are
tion of Anglo-Americans have left traces climate, the living room of the 750-square-foot then attached to a box beam, giving the appear-
of earth in the desert landscape. Often, Back 40 House is buried below grade. After ance that the roof structure is reaching out to
Southwestern architecture responds stylisti- digging the pit, the Hohokam would construct grab the thick walls.
cally to past architectural legacies but ignores a wooden framework upon which mud, made In addition to its structural innovations,
the poetic and environmentally responsive- from the soil taken from the pit, was applied. the roof also responds to environmental
ness of these earthen traditions. Such is not Here, that framework was a reusable plywood concerns. Twelve inches of recycled cotton
the case for the Back 40 House. It was designed form, reinforced with 2-by-12-inch whalers insulation buffer it from the Arizona sun.
by two recent graduates from the University that allowed a crew of four people to build a A central gutter channels water to a reflecting
of Arizona School of Architecture, Andy 6-by-8-foot rammed earth wall section each pool that irrigates the garden and a wall of
Powell and Jason Gallo, who examined ancient day, using soil excavated from the pit. climbing vines. On the roof a passive solar
desert dwelling principles while employing The soil used to construct the walls was system heats water for domestic use, and this
current technologies in environmental think- combined with 4 percent cement for stabiliza- water also warms the house through radiant
ing and making conscious efforts to lean away tion, mixed in a cement mixer, and carried to tubes embedded in the concrete floor slab.
from any trace of historical stylistic mimicry. the forms in buckets. To avoid solar gain, open- Gray water from the sinks and baths is directed
The client, Powells parents, named ings in the 18-inch-thick walls are tiny and to the landscape to irrigate a mesquite tree
the Back 40 House after their backyard, where angled slightly south to capture only moments and other vegetation that in turn, shade the
they wished to have a guesthouse. For his of the winter sun. These small light shafts house from the desert sun.

Back 40 House

Small windows that puncture the thick
walls are angled to avoid any summer
solar gain and are small enough to not
require a lintel.

Back 4 0 House 101

Floor plan

Section Section of the wall-and-roof assembly


top: Water from the roof collects in a bottom left: Like the ancient houses of bottom right: East elevation
reflecting pool that irrigates the garden the Tucson Basin, the Back 40 House
and a wall of climbing vines. is buried slightly below grade to help
keep the interior cool.

Back 4 0 House 103

Architecture Firm the concept for the center to promote sus- rammed earth that sandwich 4 inches of R32
Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden tainability and draw attention to the fragility insulation to improve the thermal qualities of
Location of the desertto reflect their own core values. the wall. This light-weight insulation cavity
Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada As a focal point of the community, the center also allows openings in the wall to be larger,
Date was also an opportunity to develop an which the architects took advantage of to
2006 architectural identity that was authentically create the enormous horizontal window that
south Okanagana reaction against the defines the entrance to the center.
The NkMip Desert Interpretive Centre is imported fauxSanta Fe style commonly An auditorium, exhibition space, gallery,
the first of several Native American cultural found in the region. gift shop, and pit house make up the major
buildings in British Columbia that plan to use The approach to the partially earth- program within the building and present
expressive architecture to convey the rich sheltered building is designed to intentionally information about the Osoyoos and their
history and promising future of native culture. divert the view away from the development historical relationship with the land. Outside,
The Osoyoos Indian Band, which belongs to to the west. Views of the desert rising up an open-air amphitheater, teepee, rooftop
the larger Okanagan Nation that extends south behind the building toward the mountains in native planting exhibit, and snake research
into the United States, hired Hotson Bakker the distance are, instead, revealed through a and demonstration areaan award-winning
Boniface Haden to design the Desert series of concrete walls that lead to a courtyard project where visitors can see endangered
Interpretive Centre as part of a larger master at the end of a massive rammed earth wall. rattlesnakescontinue the exhibit. The
plan, on a 200-acre site that will eventually This is the largest rammed earth wall in North center also serves as a trailhead for guided
include a winery, golf club, and resort hotel. America, at 262 feet long, 18 feet tall, and 24 and unguided walks through the 1,600 acres
The site is adjacent to 1,800 preserved inches thick. The wall is constructed of local protected as a conservation area by the
acres of the Great Basin Desertan expansive soils mixed with a small amount of cement and Osoyoosa continuation of their dedication
Canadian biome that lies south of the color additives to create layers of earth that to sustainable practices.
Okanagan Valley in Osoyoos, British evoke geological sedimentation. Each layer of The design of the building also promotes
Columbia. This unique environment is on colored soil was pneumatically compacted to environmentalism in other ways. As an earth-
the northernmost tip of the Great American approximately 50 percent of its uncompacted sheltered building, the landscape continues
Desert that extends to the Sonoran Desert in height. The interior and exterior of the wall onto its roof, so it has a smaller visual imprint
Mexico, and it is considered among the most were left unfinished to reveal the stratification on the landscape and more space for native
beautiful and endangered landscapes in of soils and the memory of the wooden species of plants to be reintroduced on the site.
Canada. The climate is dry, with temperature formwork. Unlike traditional rammed earth, This habitable green roof also provides greater
extremes ranging from 0 Fahrenheit in the generally a solid mass, this wall is made up of thermal stabilization and insulation for the
winter to 104 Fahrenheit in the summer. The two layers of earth that improve its thermal interior spaces, supplementing the radiant
Osoyoos are proud of their historical role as performance. The exterior and interior walls cooling system embedded in the roof slab.
stewards of this unique landscape and wanted are similarly constructed 10-inch-thick The floor slab contains radiant heating, and the

opposite, top: The building fits perfectly opposite, bottom: Local soil mixed with
within the surrounding desert land- color additives accentuates the rammed
scape without referencing historical or earth layers reminiscent of geological
regional styles. sedimentation.

NkMip Desert Interpretive Centre


two systems, coupled with natural ventilation,
create a comfortable and quiet environment
and save up to 50 percent over traditional heat-
ing, ventilation, and air conditioning costs.
Because water is a precious resource in the
desert, low-flow faucets, waterless urinals,
and dual-flush toilets are used in the building.
Blue-stain pine, which is tinted blue by a pine
beetle epidemic, is typically undesirable in
finish construction. However, the wood was
used throughout the building because of its
low cost and availability. Sustainability also
played a social role: band members participated
in the construction process, learning the craft
of making rammed earth walls.

Site plan

Section Section of wall-and-roof assembly showing

insulated rammed earth wall

top: The path to the main entrance bottom left: Blue-stain pine was used bottom right: South-facing view of outdoor
guides guests along the massive rammed throughout the interior of the building. amphitheater seating
earth wall that frames views of the
mountains in the distance.

Nk Mip Desert Interpretive Centre 107

Organiz ation Design-Build Coalition and partnered with the flywheel effect whereby solar energy
Drachman Design-Build Coalition Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC)an Arizona- absorbed by the wall during the day is released
Location based community development corporation into the cool night air before it can enter the
Tucson, Arizona committed to building stronger, healthier interior of the home. It also encloses the house
Date communitiesto create Residence 1: a below the carport on the east side of the build-
2006 three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with ing, keeping it protected and cool and further
a kitchen, living room, laundry room, contributing to the interior comfort of the
The Drachman Institute is a research and pub- carport, and garden. house. The remaining structure is constructed
lic service unit of the College of Architecture The house is sited on a long, narrow infill of a steel frame clad with galvanized metal,
and Landscape Architecture at the University lot with east-west solar exposure and sur- which reflects the desert sun, and the cladding
of Arizona, dedicated to the environmentally rounded by houses constructed between the for the ceiling is made of inexpensive plywood
sensitive and resource-conscious development 1920s and 1950s, most of which are in poor sheathing. Additional exterior walls are made
of neighborhoods and communities. It has a condition. To assist a stable working family in of translucent, ultraviolet-resistant polycar-
particular focus on the proposition that hous- this distressed area, where the annual income bonate sheeting that admits even, cool light
ing is the building block of neighborhoods is below 80 percent of the mean for Tucson, into the house. This lightweight material is
and neighborhoods are the building blocks of CPLC provided home-ownership and budget- also used on a large sliding door that opens up
communities. The work of the Drachman counseling courses to the client, and the to the carport, extending the space of the living
Institute targets the development of demo- Drachman Institute funded the design and room and creating an outdoor living room
graphically diverse neighborhoods and construction of an energy-conscious proto- that can be used eight months out of the year.
promotes well-designed, regionally appropri- type house. All of the construction work, Outside, the xeriscape garden also con-
ate housing that conserves land, energy, and except for the concrete floor, plumbing, and tributes to the quality of the microclimate
water; it contends that good quality and inno- mechanical work, was done by University of surrounding the house. Deciduous paloverde
vative architectural design and technology, Arizona architecture students and faculty. trees are planted on the south side of the house
sensible community planning, and landscape The xeriscape garden, made up of desert plants to shade the portion of the rammed earth wall
architecture that fosters beautiful and healthy that require very little water to maintain, that is not below the carport. Fast-growing
private and public space are the cornerstone of was designed by students in the Landscape eucalyptus trees planted along the west side
this goal. To accomplish this, students, staff, Architecture School and planted by local high- of the house assist in shading the earthen wall
faculty, and citizens are engaged in a collabora- school honor students. and minimize thermal gain from western
tive, research-based outreach enterprise to Residence 1s walls are made of 18-inch- exposure. A lemon tree and a pomegranate
make communities healthier, safer, more thick rammed earth and form a continuous tree are planted near the carport to take advan-
equitable, and more beautiful. Through the 76-foot-long barrier along the western facade. tage of water runoff from the metal roof. Plants
institute, professors of architecture Mary The rammed earth has no openings that might that require little water, such as agave and
Hardin and John Folan formed the Drachman allow for solar gain and takes advantage of ocotillo, fill the front yard.

opposite: Translucent, ultraviolet-resistant

polycarbonate sheeting allows filtered
light to enter the house during the day and
transforms the house into a lantern at night.

Residence 1


Floor plan

West elevation

East elevation behind carport North elevation

East elevation South elevation

opposite, top: The carport doubles as opposite, bottom: Simple materials,

an outdoor living room that can be used such as plywood, polycarbonate sheeting,
eight months out of the year. rammed earth, and concrete, are the
interior finish materials.


2Mud Brick
Ingredients: Mud, straw, and water. Method: Mix and shape into means mud brick bench in Arabic, was a tomb whose shape
a brick and bake in the sun until dry. This simple recipe results in resembled furniture found in Egyptian homes. It was beneath these
perhaps one of mans most important inventionsthe mud brick. great mounds that important members of the royal family were
It is a building module so versatile and durable it has been used for buried. So revered was mud brick that even after stone became the
floors, walls, and roofs throughout the world for thousands of years. preferred building material in the construction of the pyramids, the
Exemplary of its elegance, the Arch of Ctesiphon is considered one pharaoh Asychis had his built of earth, inscribing on the only stone
of the architectural wonders of Mesopotamia. When it was con- within it: Despise me not because of the pyramids of stone, for I
structed in 400 C.E. this Parthian Persian structure was the largest excel them as much as Zeus surpasses the other gods. For by plung-
single-span unreinforced masonry vault in the world, measuring ing a pole into a lake and collecting the mud which hung to the pole,
115 feet tall, 86 feet wide, and 163 feet long, and constructed entirely men made bricks and erected me.8
of mud brick.1 The worlds first skyscrapers, tower houses con- The oldest remnants of mud brick on the European conti-
structed over five hundred years ago in the city of Shibam, Yemen, nent, which can be traced to the Stone Age city Sesklo in Greece,
reach heights up to 96 feet. Mud brick can be stacked even higher. were mud brick dwellings that housed a population of 3,000 to
The minaret of nearby Tarim, Yemen, reaches 175 feet. 4,000 around 5300 B.C.E.9 These early dwellings, with exterior
Humankinds first cities were also constructed of mud brick. mud brick walls on stone foundations and a roof supported in part
As agricultural knowledge increased, builders realized that agri- by columns, eventually developed into the megaron, the ancestor
cultural soil, mixed with the straw left over from grain harvests, of the Greek temple. Third-century B.C.E. Athens was also con-
was highly suited for creating a durable building module. One of structed entirely of mud brick, and according to the extensive writ-
the earliest cities, atalhyk, an Early Neolithic site in Turkey, a ings on mud brick by the Roman architect Vitruvius, there were
mud brick town of 8,000 people, dates back as far as 9500 B.C.E.2 three types: the pentadoron, five palms long in both dimensions,
Archaeological excavations at Jericho, the oldest continuously for public works; the smaller tetradoron, four palms, for private
inhabited city in the world, show evidence of mud brick being used works; and the Lydian, one and one-half feet long by one foot wide,
as early as 8350 B.C.E.3 Perhaps there is some connection between a size later adopted by the Romans. 10
the word urban and the name of one of the worlds oldest cities, Ur, Probably the greatest dissemination of mud brick came
a mud brick settlement that dates back to 5300 B.C.E.; it may have through the expansion of religious ideologies. The material was
been the largest city in the world at 65,000 inhabitants between widely used in the construction of mosques and Muslim cities,
2030 and 1980 B.C.E.4 At the same time mud brick was being used and the spread of Islam beginning in the eleventh century also
in the proto-city of Ur, it was also coming into use in the develop- expanded mud brick technology throughout Africa, particularly
ing cities of ancient India.5 Archaeologists have also discovered a in sub-Saharan and North Africa.11 The Great Mosque of Djenn
colorfully decorated 3,700-year-old mud brick in Egypt, one of a in Mali, the largest mud brick building in the world, built in the
pair of bricks that would have supported a womans feet while she early twentieth century, is evidence of the strong foothold of mud
squatted during childbirth.6 Quite literally, the use of mud brick brick construction nine hundred years after its introduction to the
and the birth of civilization went hand in hand. region. Islam spread throughout North Africa and then to Spain,
Descriptions of tools, methods, and techniques for making where mud brick became widely used in all building types, from
and building with mud brick are well documented in the hiero- agricultural to religious. Subsequently, Spanish exploration and
glyphs of ancient Egypt. Egyptian builders also developed a tech- colonization had the most influence, spreading mud brick through-
nique for constructing catenary vaults of mud brick without the use out the Americas.
of supports. Called Nubian vaults, they can be traced as far back as When Spanish explorers arrived in the Americas, mud brick
the construction of the granary vaults for the Ramasseum around was already heavily in use, particularly in Peru, where the settle-
1300 B.C.E. in the city of Gourna.7 Early proto-pyramids called ment of Cerro Sechn shows mud brick in use since 1000 B.C.E.
mastabas were also constructed of mud brick. A mastaba, which The Huaca del Sol in the coastal desert south of Trujillo, Peru, a

164-foot-tall pyramid whose construction terminated with the use form of construction at that time.16 After the loss of the American
of more than 140 million mud bricks in 450 C.E., was the largest Coloniesfor which Paul Revere deserves partial creditforced
pre-Columbian mud brick structure built in the Americaslarger the British to look toward Australia as the solution to penal over-
than any mud brick pyramid of ancient Egypt.12 Chan Chan, located crowding, they introduced mud brick traditions to the island
three miles west of Trujillo and built between 850 and 1470 C.E., continent.17
was the largest mud brick urban center in pre-Columbian America, Mud brick is ubiquitous because the soils required to make
with a population estimated to be 30,000 at its height.13 it are as varied as the cultures, periods, and locations that employ
Mud brick was also in use in North America, appearing it. The Spanish word zoquete means mud in northern New Mexico;
around 500 B.C.E. The residences of the great city of Tenochtitln in northern Mexico, it is used to describe a simpleton. When asked
during the fifteenth century, one of the largest cities in the world what the relation between the two meanings was, adobera Jesusita
at the time, with 200,000 inhabitants, were constructed primar- Jimenez, a mud brick mason from Presidio, Texas, said that it is
ily of mud brick. The Spanish conquest later propelled the use of because mud is a material so simple that anyone can use it. No
mud brick in both North and South America with the construction special soil is required for making mud bricks. An ideal soil would
and reconstruction of cities throughout the new world, particularly have coarse aggregate like pea gravel, varying sizes of sand, silt, and
the United States Southwest. The city of La Villa Real de la Santa clay; however, the absence of any one of these will still result in an
F de San Francisco de Ass, known more commonly as Santa F, acceptable brick.18 Nevertheless, the soil composition required to
New Mexico, is the second oldest city and the oldest capital city in create a high-quality brick has been extensively studied. Larger par-
the United States, and it is famous for its city center of mud brick ticle sizes of aggregate and sand help create a stronger brick, and silt
churches, shops, and hotels planned on the Law of the Indiesa and clay bind the various components together. When dry, a mud
set of guidelines signed by King Phillip II of Spain to instruct brick with more clay is less strong but more water-resistant. More
Spanish colonists how to create and expand towns in Spanish aggregate means greater strength, but the resulting brick is more
America, and thought to be influenced heavily by Vitruviuss Ten susceptible to erosion. The range of percentages of each ingredient
Books of Architecture.14 In the heart of the city is the Palace of the to make the optimum mud brick is, as defined by various experts:
Governors, a mud brick building constructed in 1610 as the origi- 27 percent gravel, 6162 percent sand, 2232 percent silt, and 1415
nal capitol. It is the oldest public building in the United States still percent clay.19 The beauty of the material is that making it is not an
in continuous use, currently serving as the New Mexico History exact science; its potential is strengthened by its variety.
Museum. Today, New Mexico is the leading consumer of mud brick Of course, making mud bricks is not possible with all soils,
in the industrialized world, and the history of mud brick, as well but too much or too little of any of the necessary ingredients
as its etymology, can be traced from New Mexico directly back to required to make a mud brick can be corrected by the addition of
the ancient Egyptian builders. Adobe, as mud brick is more com- straw, the third most important ingredient next to soil and water.
monly known, is a Spanish word whose origins are from the Arabic Straw also has other benefits. As a binder, it provides reinforce-
al-tuba, the brick, which came from the Coptic tobe, and from ment, increasing the strength of the brick. It also allows the mud
Egyptian dbt, meaning brick.15 brick to dry more evenly by wicking water from the center of the
It is often assumed that Spanish and Native American tradi- brick, which prevents cracking as it bakes in the hot sun. Other
tions are the only mud brick legacies that exist in the United States. organic additives besides straw are commonly included, depend-
However, during early European settlement, architecture on the ing on the resources that are available to various cultures. Cactus
East Coast was influenced by English earth building. The home mucilage, ox blood, paper, corn husks, and manure are examples of
of Paul Revere, the famous American patriot who warned the binding agents that increase the durability of the material. Manure
colonists of the British military advance during the American dries odorless and has the added benefit of repelling insects. Cactus
Revolutionary War, is the oldest house in Boston. Built in 1680, mucilage increases the adhesion of mortar and plaster and helps
the house is post and timber with mud brick infilla common repels water.

114 Mud Brick

In modern mud brick production, additional stabilizers are of Prada Marfa. In other projects, mud brick represents an under-
occasionally included in the mixture to increase strength, cohe- standing of the importance of ecological, contextual, and cultural
sion, and water impermeability, ensuring the structural and eco- thinking. In the Arrillhjere Demonstration House, the Camacho
nomic fitness of the material. Common additives are lime, portland Residence, and the Bodega en Los Robles, the use of mud brick
cement, and bitumen. Historically, Assyrians would waterproof demonstrates the clients or architects desire to build responsibly
mud brick by laying each one in bitumen mortar. Today, emulsified and ecologically. When used for building housing, schools, and
asphalt is an ingredient in modern mud brick production, which cultural projects, mud brick is more than an environmentally and
insures against erosion or that the material lives up to a perfor- economically responsible materialit is also socially and politically
mance standard, such as a building code. In the largest mud brick salient. There is a long history of employing mud brick in a way that
factory in the world, located in Alcalde, New Mexico, stabilizers are makes a political statement, as when Asychis rebelled against stone
added to the mud bricks not for their structural performance, but in pyramid construction almost 3,000 years ago or in the Greek
rather to prevent them from being damaged by rain as thousands distinction between the sizes of mud brick in public and private
of mud bricks cure unprotected in the open air.20 work. Today, after being used for at least 10,000 years, mud brick
Once the ingredients for making a mud brick are prepared, has evolved from a simple building system to one that can represent
the mixture must be shaped. Many types of mud masonry are ideals that reflect a broad range of environmental, economic, social,
formed by hand, taking on several forms: conical, hemispheric, and traditional values in reaction to an increasingly industrialized
and dentiform, to name a few.21 The shape of each of these allows and homogeneous world.
it to be stacked in a specific arrangement or to dry either on the
ground or on the wall itself. Archaeological evidence shows that
in pre-Hispanic architecture, reeds were used to make molds for
mud brick. Today, molds are commonly made of wood and can be
designed to make one or several mud bricks at a time, depending
on the number and strength of the brick makers. The mud mixture
is poured into the mold and leveled, then the form is removed, and
the process continues. With this process, one person can produce
about three hundred mud bricks per day. Industrialized production
of mud bricks in modern brickyards employs large, mobile equip-
ment: mud is poured into a hopper and machines fill steel molds.
This process can produce up to 70 mud bricks at a time and up to
20,000 mud bricks per day.22
With the wealth of historic mud brick structures through-
out the world, particularly in developing countries, architects are
raising questions about their use in todays culture. Mathias Klotzs
Casa Corralones is an excellent example of a historic mud brick agri-
cultural building converted into a house for modern living. But the
humble mud brick has long since surpassed its role as a purely tec-
tonic and pragmatic material, and today its use often symbolizes a
builders or architects attitude toward the contemporary world.
For example, the juxtapositions between the United States and
Mexico or between the industrialized and nonindustrialized world,
are expressed by setting mud brick in cement mortar in the walls

Architecture Firm groundbreaking contribution to contempor- elementsa defense mechanism from colonial
Antoine Predock Architect ary earthen architecture that respects past times when settlers fortified their buildings
Location building traditions but also draws from alter- against attack from Native AmericansLa Luz
Albuquerque, New Mexico native sources for inspiration. It was the first embraces the landscape and opens up to views
Date suburban housing development in the world of the Sandia, Manzano, and Los Pinos moun-
19671974 constructed entirely of mud brick, and it was tains in the distance.
also the first major project for renowned It is also a model for suburban develop-
New Mexico has a long and rich history of architect Antoine Predock, designed and built ment. Unlike most suburban housing that
earthen architecture. The oldest continuously between 1967 and 1974. To design a project that sprawls into the landscape, La Luz is compact.
inhabited buildings in the United States, found works within the language of modern architec- Clustered within 42 acres are ninety-six homes
at Taos Pueblo, are multistory earthen struc- ture while fitting within the regional historic adjacent to 500 acres of land stretching to the
tures built by Native Americans in the 1100s. context, Predock intentionally looked beyond Rio Grande River that were preserved for
In the sixteenth century, Spanish settlers the regional styles and instead found inspira- public open space. Each dwelling is connected
introduced mud brick, which radically trans- tion in the desert landscape. to this public landscape, while also having its
formed native building practices and created Mud brick, brown cement stucco, and own private outdoor space as well as access to
an architectural tradition distinct to northern white trim are common to the Pueblo style semipublic communal patios and squares.
New Mexico. Many types of vernacular archi- that emerged in the region in the early 1900s; The buildings are also directly connected to
tecture evolved from these two cultures, the architecture of La Luz combines these the land as all of the mud bricks used to build
and during the twentieth century many traditional materials with concrete and large the homes were made directly on site to reduce
Southwestern architectural styles, such glass openings without the decorative pastiche transportation costs and are stabilized with a
as the Pueblo and Territorial styles, emerged. typical of Southwestern-style architecture. small amount of asphalt emulsion. La Luz
Unfortunately, as the appeal of these styles Rather than copying the forms of traditional proved that large-scale developments can be
grew, architects began to employ superficially architecture, Predock found inspiration in the constructed of earth while being ecological,
motifs inspired by the traditional buildings in silhouette of basalt outcroppings common to profitable, and timeless. Today, almost thirty-
new earthen and nonearthen structures, with the Albuquerque landscape and designed the five years after the communitys inception,
no regard for scale, structure, and meaning. building to emulate their forms. In opposition it joins the legacy of historic earth structures
Nestled in the desert landscape of subur- to the traditional architecture of the region, in New Mexico and is listed in the National
ban Albuquerque, however, is La Luz, a which closes itself off from the landscape and Register of Historic Places.

opposite: The architecture of La Luz

represents a new take on building in New
Mexico without historical pastiche.

La Luz Community

116 Mud Brick

Site plan

118 Mud Brick

top: La Luz with the backdrop of the bottom left: The architecture of La Luz is bottom right: Each apartment opens onto
Sandia, Manzano, and Los Pinos minimal and modern. its own private outdoor space.

L a Luz Communit y 119

Architecture Firm The Matthews Residence is a multi- central living space. The exposed mud brick
Will Bruder + Partners level private residence in Phoenixan ideal walls are both pragmatic and sculptural
Location location to attempt a modern approach to buffering the desert heat and creating a series
Phoenix, Arizona mud brick architecture. Modern architecture of dynamic spaces where Bruder manipulates
Date had already taken hold in the area thanks light and challenges the conventions of mud
1981 to Wrights Taliesin West, and mud brick is brick construction. Each brick course in the
a well-established building material in the double layer walls is cantilevered at the end of
It makes sense that one of William Bruders region, used traditionally by both Spanish- the wall, expressing the limited tensile possi-
first widely published works of architecture speaking and Anglo residents. During the bilities of each structural mud brick. The desert
is constructed of mud brick. He descends summer, temperatures in Phoenix average light washes down the wall, heightening the
from a line of architects in the United States around 105 Fahrenheit and only 7 inches texture and color of the raw earth.
Southwest who actively explored earth as an of rain fall per year, so mud brick, which has Because the walls shield the harsh desert
appropriate building material for the region. a thermal mass that helps keep houses cool, light, while at the same time manipulating
Bruder apprenticed for the visionary architect was the perfect choice. Additionally, to assist light to create intriguing spaces and textures,
Paolo Soleri at Cosanti, an experimental town with keeping interior temperatures low, the house becomes an expression that is
in the high desert of Arizona, seventy miles the first floor of the house is underground specific to the Phoenix landscape. Bruder
north of metropolitan Phoenix. Soleri was a technique used by the Native Americans describes the house as a contemporary
trained by Frank Lloyd Wright, whose propos- of the region. approach to adobe and earth technology archi-
als for Broadacre City and design for a mud The Matthews Residence is much more tecture that needs no historical references
brick house in El Paso, Texas, are the genesis of than an exercise in thermal performance, and is a bold combination of the spirit of
modern earthen architecture in the United howeverit also reflects Bruders background adobe with the spirit of our high tech society,
States. as a sculptor. Most striking are the layers of where the capabilities of one of mans oldest
curved mud brick walls that surround the materials can be reconsidered in a modern age.

opposite, top left: At the terminus of opposite, top right: Mud brick walls were
the double-layer wall, mud brick is left exposed to reveal their texture, color,
cantilevered. and structure.

opposite, bottom left: The wall opposite, bottom right: Curved walls,
surrounding the house is also constructed varying floor heights, and exposed beams
of mud brick. create dynamic interior spaces that are
very different from those in traditional mud
brick houses.

Floor plan and section composite drawing

Matthews Residence

120 Mud Brick

Architecture Firm when he was young. The challenges presented and remove excess water from the bricks.
Arkitekt Sverre Fehn AS by combining Nordic and Mediterranean archi- The bricks were allowed to dry in the open air
Location tecture are visible in the structure and interior for two weeks and turned every two days after
Norrkping, Sweden spaces, as well as in the enclosing building the excess water was removed.
Date material itself. Like traditional earthen roofs The increased straw content also made
19911992 in Morocco, which are made of layers of these much lighter than standard mud bricks,
organic matter covered with earth, the heavy allowing for larger sizes to be used. The larger
Norwegian architect Sverre Fehn designed wooden frame of the barrel vault supports bricks weighed nearly 18 pounds, rather
the Eco House as part of a competition entry laminated wood and is covered in cork, bark, lightweight for a mud brick of the unusually
for a tourist and sports center near the and finally earth. The walls are also con- large dimensions of 21 11 8 inches. These
Mauritzberg Castle in eastern Norway. The structed of earth, but the mud bricks normally Norbricks, short for Norwegian Bricks,
proposal called for golf courses, tennis courts, used in desert architecture were radically as the team dubbed them, were then coursed
and equestrian facilities, as well as three revised to allow them to perform in the cold, in the timber-frame structure with mud
hundred residential units that varied in size humid climate of Scandinavia. mortar and covered with a waterproof plaster
from 270 to 2,700 square feet. While Fehns Fehn developed a mud brick with a high on the interior and the exterior to protect them
proposal won the competition, it was never straw content for use as an infill for the Nordic from the humid Scandinavian weather.
realized. But in 1992, architects Mikko timber-frame structure. Straw is typically
Heikkinen and Markku Komonen and used as a binding agent and helps mud brick
Professor Beng Ludsten, under the direction dry evenly in the intense heat of the desert, but
of Fehn, led a group of students from the it also provides insulation, so a much higher
Technological University of Helsinki to build amount of straw was used in each mud brick
one of Fehns prototypes. Over the course intended for use in the chilly Scandinavian
of eight weeks during a summer architecture climate. However, the large amount of straw
course students constructed the house in that was mixed with the earth absorbed water
Norrkping, Sweden. and required a special process of removing it
Typical of Nordic building, the prototype from the bricks to ensure that the bricks would
is a heavy-timber frame construction; how- dry properly. As is common, mud and straw
ever, the desert influence evident in the design were combined in a cement mixer and poured
grew from the familiarity with earthen con- into wooden forms. Weights were then placed
struction Fehn gained during a trip to Morocco on top of the forms to squeeze the mixture

opposite, top: From the exterior, the above: Norwegian mud bricks,
vaulted roof, small openings, and thick or Norbricks, dry in the sun.
plastered walls clearly demonstrate
Mediterranean influences but appear at
home in their Scandinavian context.

opposite, bottom: Entry

The Eco House

122 Mud Brick

Master plan from Fehns winning

Section Floor plan

124 Mud Brick

The vaulted roof is reminiscent of
traditional Nubian architecture and Nordic
shipbuilding techniques.

The Eco HOuse 125

Organiz ation Nubian vault construction techniques on the The design of the Camacho Residence is
The Adobe Alliance border of Texas and Mexico. With this, she a study in simplicity. Thick walls protect it
Location also promoted the concept that the benefits from the desert heat without the need for air
Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico of mud brick can extend beyond home con- conditioning, an impressive feat considering
Date struction, transforming building and economic that nearby Presidio, Texas, just across the
1995 culture through the education of masons, border, is often the hottest city in the United
mud brick makers, and vault builders. States. Living and sleeping areas offer respite
On a small plot of land on a hill in the dusty Like Fathy, Swan believes that building from the heat and odors of the detached
border town of Ojinaga, Mexico, sits a small with mud brick is more than just the creation kitchen. Floors, walls, roof, and even furniture
compound with domes and Nubian barrel- of walls. For her, building with adobe is a are constructed of earth. The sofas and coffee
vault roofs constructed of mud brick and political act. To encourage the role of women table were made of stacked mud brick that
plastered with mud mixed with straw. The in a male-dominated culture, Swan hand- was then plastered with another layer of mud,
forms might as easily be found along the Nile picked a local woman, Jesusita Jimenez, and creating a continuous surface of earth from
River in Egypt, where the Nubian vault has trained her to be a master builder and head the floor to wall to furniture to ceiling. Small
existed for thousands of years. Amid the building crew. This was also consistent with bookshelves are also embedded within the
brightly painted concrete-block houses in the her belief that the entire process of building thickness of the massive earthen walls. The
neighborhood, the small house might seem a house should challenge convention. Making narrow living room feels much more spacious
out of place, but against the backdrop of the mud brick is a labor-intensive activity that due to the loftiness of the vaulted roof above,
Santa Cruz Mountains and the Rio Grande requires little specialized skill; rather than and the dome over the kitchen makes the ritual
Valley, which is reminiscent of the Nile River arriving at ways to reduce the amount of labor of humble food preparation more special.
valley, it is very much at home. in construction, Swan encourages it. This has The house cost only $5,000 to build and
Simone Swan, who designed the house, had an important impact on this small border its construction taught valuable skills to the
is the director of the Adobe Alliance, an town, where local unemployment rates are people who helped Camacho. Jesusita Jimenez
organization dedicated to helping communi- 50 percent and interest on home loans can be became an expert at dome and vault construc-
ties apply cooperative building techniques in as high as 48 percent. tion and many of the laborers acquired skills
earth architecture. Swans formal architectural The story of the Camacho Residence for making and building with mud brick.
education came late in life when she met the began when Swan was invited to Ojinaga by Jimenez later invited these laborers to be her
Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy in Cairo the Partido de la Revolucin Democrtica, crew and went on to construct several more
in 1975 and served as his apprentice for three a left-wing political party concerned with houses in the region, including Swans own
years. With Fathy, she learned that building social welfare in Mexico, to present her ideas home in nearby Presidio. Swan and Jimenez
with mud brickparticularly houses con- on enabling owner-built mud brick housing. continue to offer mud brick and vault-making
structed entirely from mud, including the At the presentation, Daniel Camacho, an workshops at her home in Presidio and
roofusing a technique of catenary vaulted unemployed farm worker, asked Swan to teach throughout Mexico and the U.S. Southwest.
roofs that required no wood or formwork, him how to build a prototype, which in turn Camacho became a successful businessman
could be of tremendous value in providing Swan could use for demonstration purposes. and a well-known mud brick maker, selling up
low-cost housing. Inspired by Fathys desire They agreed to work together, and Swan to 5,000 bricks a month, which he makes on
to house the poor and intrigued by the idea set out to design Camachos four-room, 550- the property adjacent to his house.
of transplanting his ideologies, Swan set square-foot house.
out in 1994 to disseminate mud brick and

Camacho Residence

126 Mud Brick

Daniel Camacho and his crew make mud
bricks in the hot Ojinaga sun.

Camacho Residence 127

Floor plan

top left: Simone Swan oversees the top right: Camacho mixes mud and straw
construction of the walls as her crew together to make mud bricks and to
prepares to construct the vaulted roof. plaster the walls.

128 Mud Brick

left: In the process of building his own right: Floors, walls, roof, and furniture
house, Camacho also became a are made of earth.
successful businessman, selling up to
5,000 bricks a month.

Camacho Residence 129

Architecture Firm where soil, rain and sun are the most valuable power all the lights and appliances in a typical
Brendan J. Meney Architects resources available. Australian home. Rainwater is collected by
Location The houses thick earthen walls are built the roof and stored in two large steel tanks
Alice Springs, Australia of 14,000 mud bricks handmade from the that each hold 6,000 gallons. A photovoltaic-
Date red soil found on site and stabilized with bitu- powered solar pump sends this water to an
1997 men for water resistance and to decrease life- elevated tank that creates pressure for domes-
cycle maintenance costs. Architect Brendan tic use. The solar-heating system mounted on
At age 64, Olive Veverbrants, a Western Meney chose small bricks4 5 12 inches the roof next to the photovoltaic panels heats
Arrernte woman, established the Gloria Lee to increase productivity due to their lighter water; a backup fire-heating system kicks in
Ngale Environmental Learning Centre in weight and manageability. To provide during cloudy spells. Rain is the only source
Alice Springs, Australia, to provide Aboriginal a thermal mass equivalent to that of much of water available to the occupants, and the
people a place to gain hands-on experience thicker and denser earth walls, the bricks were architect calculated that even during an excep-
and share knowledge about building tech- coursed in two layers with a 2-inch cavity tionally dry year, the tanks will collect enough
niques and food production practices that between the inner and outer walls that was water for three people, each consuming 16
directly contribute to healthier, more sustain- filled with sand. gallons per day, during the year. Water-saving
able lifestyles. Aboriginal communities are The walls were built atop a foundation devices contribute to conservation and are
often affected by economic hardship and that was constructed of rammed earth taken attached to all kitchen and bathroom fixtures,
are unable to obtain decent housing for their directly from the excavation of the building and a composting toilet was installed instead
members. In response to this, the Arrillhjere footprint and stabilized with 10 percent of a flush toilet. Gray water, the wastewater
Demonstration House was conceived as a cement. The rammed earth foundation proved from showers and sinks, is reused to irrigate a
vehicle for the center to teach hands-on build- less expensive than one that uses costly fruit tree orchard.
ing techniques suitable to the Australian concrete with steel reinforcement, and the The roof is also critical in ameliorating the
outback so that participants could take those labor-intensive process, which requires hand effects of the long hot summers without the
skills back to their communities. tamping layers of soil, also generated employ- need for energy-consuming air-conditioning
The center is surrounded by a desert with ment. Outdoor verandas and the interior systems. Its large canopy is structurally sepa-
long, hot summers and dramatic temperature floors are constructed of rammed earth, and rated from the walls and supported by a metal
changes. The average rainfall in Alice Springs the interior walls are finished with earth-based frame, which allows for maximum airflow
is approximately 11 inches per year, and in paints, whose high clay and mica content around the structure. Stationary ridge vents
summer the average daily maximum tempera- lightens the interior naturally. connected to flexible ducts take advantage
ture is 97 Fahrenheit, with highs reaching Active and passive solar and water collec- of this natural ventilation and help remove
113, but the diurnal temperature can be up tion and distribution systems, and passive dust from the interior of the house. The roof
to 82 and a thunderstorm can cause tempera- cooling systems are critical to the houses self- canopy also keeps the entire structure and the
tures to drop to 59 within ten minutes. sufficiency. Photovoltaic panels connected outdoor spaces beneath it in constant shade
The house is designed to take advantage of to 24 batteries managed by a solar regulator during the summer, while allowing the sun to
the radical Central Australian environment, and inverter provide enough electricity to warm the walls in the winter.

Arrillhjere Demonstration House

13 0 Mud Brick
North elevation

Arrillhjere Demonstr ation House 131

Section showing air circulation

Floor plan

top left: Locals wishing to gain above left: As the mud brick walls are
experience in sustainable building not structural, they were stacked on top
practices made 14,000 mud bricks by of a stabilized rammed earth foundation
hand from the red soil of the site. beneath a steel roof structure.

132 Mud Brick

above: The mud brick walls are protected
from erosion by the detached roof canopy
and clay-based paints.

right: Rain water collected by the roof is stored

in two large steel tanks that each hold 6,000
gallons then pumped to elevated storage tanks
to provide water pressure.

Architecture Firm This unique environment initially prompted Because traditional mud brick walls are
Arup Associates Arup to employ highly sophisticated engineer- not earthquake safe, Arup designed a timber-
Location ing software and modern building materials frame wood structure, based upon Japanese
Shey, Ladakh, India to address the environmental challenges, but joinery techniques, that serves as the primary
Date the firm soon discovered that costs associated load-bearing structure and is infilled with mud
2001 with importing industrial materials were far brick. The large beams are connected by steel
too high and looked to local building tradi- plates and provide large open spaces inside;
The Druk White Lotus School, located in tions. The result is an architecture that is much outside, they project beyond the double-glazed
Ladakh, India, a Tibetan plateau that is one of like the education offered at the schoola windows to support sunshades and trellises
the last strongholds of indigenous Buddhist collaboration between technological advance- for climbing vines. The structure also supports
culture, was created to prepare the children ments and tried-and-true traditions to produce a roof made up of a tightly arranged row
of Ladakh for the challenges of the twenty- a model for appropriate and sustainable of willow branches covered with rock-wool
first century through modern education. modernization. insulation, waterproof felt paper, and is cov-
In 1997 the Drukpa Trust, a charity based in Although the climate is harsh, sunshine ered over with a layer of grass and mud. The
the United Kingdom to advance learning is abundant, and in order to make the most of roof is an improvement on traditional earthen
according to the universal philosophy and this rich resource, Arups design takes advan- roofs, which lack insulation and waterproofing
nonsectarian practice of Tibetan Buddhism, tage of solar energy through both active and material, and it prevents the heat collected
asked Arup Associates to propose a master passive technologies. Photovoltaic panels in the Trombe walls from escaping.
plan that would ultimately serve 750 elemen- charge batteries that do everything from run Arups master plan, when finished,
tary and high school students. The first phase computers to pump water. To create a passive will include several innovative mud brick and
of this long-term project was a nursery and solar heating system for the school, Arup granite buildings in addition to this school.
infants school that uses both traditional and Associates designed a ventilated Trombe wall The entire complex will ultimately be
modern building materials and employs system constructed of mud brick, granite, organized on the pattern of the traditional
methods that respond to the extreme condi- and glass. The mud bricks thermal mass stores nine-square southsouth east facing mandala,
tions of the high-desert environment. the winter suns warmth for evening heating, a geometric pattern that represents the cosmos
The location of the school presented and granite surfaces protect the brick from metaphysically and symbolically in Tibetan
the projects primary challenge. Ladakh is erosion. Spaced in front of the thick walls is a Buddhism; and it will be surrounded by a
the highest plateau region in Northern India, double layer of glass, and above and below the series of concentric circles made up of low
reaching up to 11,000 feet above sea level. massive walls are adjustable openings that walls, tree plantings, and stupas. Scheduled
The average rainfall in this high-altitude desert allow heat to be transferred from the air cavity for completion in 2011, the complex will
is less than 2 inches per year, and winter between the glass, and earthen wall to the include a library, computer and science labs,
temperatures can be as low as -30 Fahrenheit. room inside. This allows for the temperature dining halls, faculty and student housing,
With winter come heavy snows, making of the rooms to be controlled and keeps the and an open-air temple that will serve as the
access only possible by air. Furthermore, the young students comfortable. heart of the campus.
region is prone to seismic activity.

opposite, top: South elevation of the opposite, bottom: A wall of glass allows
Nursery and Infant School and Junior the thick granite and mud brick walls
School to absorb and retain heat from the sun.

Druk White Lotus School

134 Mud Brick

Site plan (detail shown right) Floor plan


13 6 Mud Brick
top left: Granite cladding protects the top right: Warm materials make a bottom: The timber-frame structure was
mud brick walls. comfortable learning environment designed for stability during earthquakes,
for the children. and the mud brick infill is the thermal mass.

Druk White Lotus School 137

Architecture Firm skewed from this axis, creating dynamic enclosure above mud brick walls allow air to
Jos Cruz Ovalle, Arquitecto interstitial spaces through which guests pass circulate through the wine storage areas and
Location while visiting the winery. These displacements admit a filtered, gentle light into the structure.
San Fernando, Chile create a spatial relationship between the build- As has been the tradition in the region for
Date ings that encourages a connection between centuries, local artisans created the mud bricks
2002 the architecture and the landscape by defining by blending straw with soil from the site and
views to the vineyard and creating spaces walking horses over the mix to combine them.
The Bodega en Los Robles, a wine cellar built where people can gather to discuss the produc- In order to expose the natural beauty of mud
by Chilean architect Jos Cruz Ovalle in 2002 tion of wine. The skewed placement of the brick, the designers did not cover the gently
in San Fernando, Chile, is the centerpiece of buildings also creates a Venturi effect, which curved mud brick walls with plaster. The
the countrys first organic vineyard. Both increases airflow around the buildings to thermal mass associated with the walls helps
architect and client felt it was important that promote a cool environment for wine storage. control internal temperatures, and their curva-
the architecture reflect the values of a winery The use of natural materials such as wood, ture improves the acoustics within the wine
that focuses on making wine through organic stone, and mud brick, which are common to cellar, which is important as the building is not
growing and processing methods. By careful Chiles historic building traditions, is also only a place to make and store wine, but also
placement of the buildings and the use of expressive of the clients desire to have wine where wine tastings and presentations about
innovative green technologies and materials, storage buildings that are as sensitive to the ecological wine production can take place.
Cruz Ovalle created a complex of buildings natural landscape as the vineyards
that are sensitive to the context of the vineyard The stones used for the foundation and
and the environment. the perimeter paving allow water to percolate
The wine cellar complex comprises naturally back into the soil, and their thermal
several large warehouses organized along a mass helps keep interior temperatures con-
symmetrical axis. Each warehouse is slightly stant. Wooden slats that define the building

right: Wooden slats encourage air

circulation and introduce a filtered light
into the interior.


Bodega en Los Robles

13 8 Mud Brick
Subtly curved mud brick walls, ventilating
wood louvers, and stone foundations
and pavers found on site are the primary
architectural elements of the wine cellar.

Bodega en Los Robles 13 9

Site plan

Section details of timber structure and Elevation detail of curved mud brick infill walls
through mud brick wall

Plan detail of curved infill walls

Isometric drawing of mud brick infill walls Reflected ceiling plan detail showing overhang of wood screens above mud brick walls

opposite, top: The wine cellar complex opposite, bottom: A forest of wooden
comprises several large warehouses trusses comprises the interior of the
organized along an axis parallel to the wine storage area.

140 Mud Brick

Architecture Firm The calcium-rich Pecaya soil is ideal for the overlaid with a textile of woven cocuy fiber.
Rafael Mattar Neri, Arquitectos production of mud bricks. No stabilizers, A thin coat of the same mud mixture used to
Asociados such as cement or lime, were used in making make the bricks was then applied to the woven
Location the bricks; only mud and fiber from the cocuy fiber surface to create a waterproof and insula-
Pecaya, Venezuela plant were necessary, and after two weeks tive roof. Colorful woven rope, also made
Date of drying in the sun, the bricks were ready to from cocuy fiber and used traditionally by the
2003 be used in construction. The walls are made of Pecayeros in the construction of hammocks,
two parallel layers of mud bricks to improve was woven into a net to enclose the gable end
Pecaya is a small, impoverished town in the stiffness of the wall and to keep the interior of the roof that still allows breezes to filter
Venezuela known for its mud brick houses and climate constant: this is important for the dis- through. The colorful rope also designates the
for spirits made from the agave cocuy, a succu- tillation process, especially in an environment entrance to the distillery and symbolizes a
lent plant native to the region. But in the 1960s, where the temperature can vary greatly brighter future for the community.
production of the 53-proof Cocuy Pecayero between day and night.
was made illegal in Venezuela. This caused the Airflow and protection from the sun are
economy of the town, which was already in a necessary for the production of the alcohol.
poor region, to fall into decline, and clandes- Fenestration was created in the thick earthen
tine production of the alcohol continued. But walls by stacking mud brick at a diagonal to
in 2001 a cooperative organization formed, create triangular openings that required no
which pressured the government to allow lintel. The indirect light and welcome breezes
people to process Cocuy legally in a communal offered by these openings is reminiscent of
distillery that would be constructed in the past Cocuy Pecayero production, which tradi-
village. The criteria for the design of the distill- tionally took place in the shade beneath the
ery as defined by the cooperative was that it cuj trees.
Floor plan
fit within the sociocultural and economic The roof is largely constructed from
context of Pecaya and that it give the villagers materials that come from the same plant used
a feeling of ownership of the new building. to make the liquor. The round trunk that
Local artisans developed and constructed grows from the center of the plant was used to
each architectural element used in the Cocuy make the roof rafters, which were laid directly
Pecayero Distillery, following local building atop the mud brick walls. Smaller sticks cut
traditions, and virtually all the materials used from the maguey plant were attached horizon-
to make the building were found on site. tally on top of these beams, and these were

opposite, top left: A view of the entrance opposite, bottom: Light and air pass Roof plan
to the distillery shows its rural site through a screen created by diagonally
surrounded by cuj trees. placed mud bricks.

opposite, top right: The walls, roof,

and water tower are all constructed and
plastered with earth from the site.

Cocuy Pecayero Distillery

142 Mud Brick

Architecture Firm building was surrounded by a large overhang plaster on its mud brick walls. The cladding
Mathias Klotz Arquitecto and roofed with fired clay tiles. In 1985 an in the upper floors is made of bright, untreated
Location earthquake caused the center of the second- pine, and the stairway landing is suspended
Acuelo, Chile floor structure to collapse, leaving a double- from the rafters by thin cables, further enhanc-
Date height void inside, which inspired Klotz and ing the quality of light. The thick timber beams
2004 Bernstein when they began to reconsider also become much lighter, and seemingly
the nineteenth-century barn. thinner, as light enters through a clerestory of
With so many earthen structures on the planet The 25-foot-tall space was preserved to glass inserted between each truss. This band
it is important to consider how existing build- create a grand living room in the center of the of windows fills the space with an abundance
ings can be adapted to respond to changing house. Flanking each end of this space are the of indirect lighta grand departure from
lifestyles. The restoration of Casa Corralones portions of the second-story floor that sur- the small openings of the original structure.
by Chilean architects Mathias Klotz and vived the earthquake, which were preserved
Magdalena Bernstein is an example of a historic and used as the master bedroom and a space
structure that was transformed to create a that can serve as either a study or play room.
hybrid architecture that balances heavy and Beneath these elevated spaces are the kitchen,
light, old and new. guest and childrens bedrooms, and bath-
In 1860 the original building that was rooms. The internal atrium creates visual
to become Casa Corralones was constructed connections that extend across the main living
to house feed grain and for other agricultural space. This is a radical transformation of the
uses. At that time, the linear barn was a two- original space, which was a series of 20-by-
story structure with thick mud brick walls 30-foot dark, segregated storage rooms.
at the base; the second level was built on a With the removal of the walls that
wood platform made of pine flooring within divided the spaces, they became connected by
the heavy timber-beam roof structure. The light, an effect that is magnified by the white

right: Indirect light enters through opposite: The double-height living

clerestory windows that run along two space is brightened by a long clerestory
sides of the house. window.

Casa Corralones

144 Mud Brick

Second-floor plan

First-floor plan Detail of bond beam on top of thick mud brick wall

Sections The second-story platform is made of pine

flooring; the heavy timber beams original to
the building are overhead.

146 Mud Brick

Casa Corralones at night

Casa Corr alones 147

Artists poverty, the United States and Mexico, real New Mexico, over 500 miles away. Not
Elmgreen & Dragset and surrealare what make this minimalist unlike the luxury goods that fill the installa-
Location sculpture that replicates a luxury boutique tion, the mud bricks manufactured at this
Valentine, Texas where the Fall 2005 line of Prada shoes and adobe yard primarily supply a growing
Date bags are displayed, so intriguing. population of affluent Southwesterners
2005 Prada Marfa is sited near the United enamored of the romantic notion of living
StatesMexico border and surrounded by in houses constructed from earth. Unlike
Mud brick and the dry, desolate West Texas immense ranches, each several thousand acres the traditional method, where bricks are laid
desert are not typically associated with Prada, or larger and owned by some of the wealthiest in an earthen mortar, the bricks used to
the Italian fashion company that has retail people in the United States. Most of the ranch build Prada Marfa were set in cement. The
outlets worldwide, but the increasing popular- owners have ties to oil, and more recently juxtaposition between the industrial and
ity of mud brick has created a demand for dot-com wealth, including CEO traditional materials is a nod to Judd, whose
the material, making it it a status symbol in and founder Jeff Bezos, who has announced vast and priceless collection is housed in
the Southwestern United States. The humble plans to construct a spaceport just down the similarly constructed mud and cement mili-
earthen houses that make up the residential road from the faux boutique. Appearing like a tary structures in Marfa; and the combination
district of Marfa, Texas, now fetch several UFO in the sky within view of Prada Marfa also represents the bipolar nature of the
hundred thousand dollars as second homes is a Tethered Aerostat Radar System, a lighter- context in which it is built.
for New Yorkers, Houstonians, and Los than-air, inflatable, aerodynamic balloon filled In Marfa, mud has been used to
Angelenos. Mud brick construction, at one with helium and air that provides low-level construct buildings in the region since pre-
time a strong building tradition in the region, radar surveillance along the southwest border Columbian times, and the U.S. military,
has been transformed by the forces of supply of the United States. A short drive away are who came to the region to protect West
and demand. The costs associated with earthen some of the most important works by the Texas from Mexican bandits after the Pancho
construction have become very high, leaving renowned American minimalist artist Donald Villa raid, introduced the use of cement
the descendants of dwellers in traditional Judd. Spaceports, art, wealth, poverty, and mortar in the construction of their mud brick
earthen structures unable to afford mud and the tension of the border seem somehow buildings. The walls of cement and mud of
forcing them to occupy the more affordable equally at home in and foreign to this environ- Prada Marfa tell the history of the diverse
premanufactured homes. Much like the knock- ment. The isolated store is no different; groups that have inhabited the area. By repre-
off Prada bags that are a consequence of the with its delicate interiors and massive walls, senting a metaphorical border between art
high price tag of authentic Prada merchandise, which represent both the influx of wealth and as commodity and commodity as art, the
adobe knockoffsfaux dobes with adobe- past traditions, it fits within the complex geo- installation, its wares, and its materials also
style motifs, fake logs protruding from their political and cultural framework of the middle represent a conceptual interpretation of the
facades, and brown stuccoare the preferred of nowhere, Texas. latest wave of inhabitation in the region
style of premanufactured Southwestern Prada Marfa was constructed of 2,500 Judd, and later a gentry of gallery owners,
homes. The dichotomies found in the Big Bend mud bricks made by machine and express artists, art lovers, and fashionistas.
region of West Texasbetween wealth and shipped to the site from a factory in Alcalde,

opposite, top: The art installation, located opposite, bottom: A local rancher
on an isolated road in West Texas, visits the sculpture.
replicates a luxury boutique.

Prada Marfa

148 Mud Brick


Floor plan

150 Mud Brick

top: The mud bricks used to build bottom: The Fall 2005 line of Prada
Prada Marfa were set in a cement shoes and bags are displayed within the
mortar, like the walls Donald Judd had mud brick structure.
constructed in Marfa.

Pr ada Marfa 151

Organiz ation she was cooking, and a visual and physical technologies, the students created earth
Rural Studio connection to her mothers house nearby, blocks composed of 70 percent earth, 25
Location which was also built by Rural Studio. The percent pulped newspaper, and 5 percent port-
Masons Bend, Alabama resulting 900-square-foot house went beyond land cement poured into cardboard boxes of
Date her wishes. Though it is small, the two-bed- various sizes and allowed to dry. While labor
2006 room house feels much larger because the intensive, the technique requires no special
living space opens to the north and south ends skill or equipment, and the resulting mud
Masons Bend is a small hamlet near the Black of the house, bringing in a large amount of bricks can produce a 12-inch-thick wall with an
Warrior River in Hale County, Alabama, home light. At one end, a screened-in porch can be insulation value that is greater than in typical
to a cluster of experimental architecture used as an extension of the living area for most residential construction. Though massive, the
projects built by the Rural Studio. Among the of the year, allowing the children to play in a non-load-bearing walls appear to be delicate.
collection of buildings created by students of safe, enclosed area in the fresh air. Because They are independent of the roof, and light
the Auburn School of Architecture as gifts the children often run back and forth between that passes through windows above the wall
for the towns impoverished residents are five their mothers and grandmothers houses, a decreases their visual weight.
houses, a rammed earth community center and raised garden connects the two. The garden Hovering over everything is a winglike
chapel, and a basketball court. Christines and lawn are protected by a concrete retaining roof supported by concrete columns. The roof
House, a recent addition to the body of work wall that keeps cars away from the childrens was the first part of the house to be constructed
that the Rural Studio has contributed to the outdoor play space. in order to create a dry work space beneath.
neighborhood, designed and built as a masters Two massive earth walls reinforce the In the kitchen, a tower punctures the roof
thesis project by two students, reexamines the idea that the garden is an extension of the creating a grand, soaring space that also venti-
use of earth as a building material in rural interior spaces, and define the east and west lates the house, catching breezes and drawing
Alabama. With this innovative house Amy facades of the house. For their thesis, the up hot air like a chimney. Floor vents work
Green Bullington and Stephen Long responded students experimented with ways of using in conjunction with the tower to draw cool air
to the needs of the client while taking on the the ubiquitous red clay as a building material. up from the crawl space, which doubles as an
challenge of creating an innovative and sus- Their interest in recycling and alternative underground storm shelter. The underbelly of
tainable building. materials led them to develop a process that the roof is made of cedar to match the interior
The houses owner, Christine Green, is a variation of hybrid adobe and fidobe, two walls of the house that are not mud brick.
is a single mother with four children under six techniques they learned from the alternative Cedar is also the material that clads the grand-
years of age. Christine desired space both building website These mothers house, further reinforcing its
inside and outside the house for her children to techniques use paper fibers instead of straw connection to Christines.
play, where they could be watched even while to create the mud mix. Combining the two

Christines House

152 Mud Brick

The roof hovers above the mud brick
walls and extends out over the exterior
spaces, making the interior of the house
seem larger.

Christine s House 153

Floor plan Section


154 Mud Brick

top: The tower over the kitchen ventilates bottom left: Christine Green and the bottom right: A Rural Studio student
the house, catching breezes and drawing youngest of her four children sit in the with Christines oldest child in the
hot air out of the house like a chimney. living room, which is enclosed by screened-in porch.
the massive mud brick wall behind her.

Christine s House 155

3Compressed Earth Block
The compressed earth block was the first material to be used in devices are improvements on the manual press, while others have
the modern earth-building revolution, an entirely new building electric, diesel, or gasoline-powered engines that utilize hydrau-
unit invented in the eighteenth century, when radical philoso- lic compression to produce thousands of blocks per day. These
phies were emerging in Europe. Franois Cointeraux, a Lyonnaise small factories, which can be towed by a truck, can cost upward
architect who was impressed by the use of pis, was so inspired by of $50,000 and have equally expensive attachments that include
building with earthwhich he saw as congruous with the emerg- earth-blending machines, hoppers, and loaders. The technologi-
ing ideals of the French Revolution, being an inexpensive and read- cal sophistication that allows for mass production at various scales
ily available material for the common, hardworking manthat he makes CEB one of the few earth technologies that is also a viable
sought to disseminate and improve upon the technology.1 In 1803 commercial product.
Cointeraux developed a mechanical press to create a building mod- Cointerauxs desire that earthen construction be an agent of
ule that he felt should be employed throughout the realm, for the societal reformation is still palpable in modern compressed earth
decency of villages and the honor of the nation.2 Having learned block building culture. In the 1980s, the technology was dissemi-
of rammed earth in the wine-growing regions south of Lyon, his nated throughout the developing world through aid agencies such
invention was based on the traditional wine press.3 The rammed as the Peace Corps and USAID. Mexico and other nations with
earth blocks produced by the press could be used to construct fac- growing populations in need of low-cost housing are some of the
tories, fireproof buildings, and save wood.4 He viewed the output most booming markets for CEB machine sales.7 While countries
of the press as a form of cast stone, or pierres facticesneither brick where aid organizations introduce the CEB often have their own
nor pis, but nouveau pis, as he called the entire process.5 Thus, the well-established earth-building traditions, CEB is usually pre-
modern compressed earth block (CEB) was borna building com- ferred because the machine-made product is perceived to suggest
ponent that had the versatility of a brick but the social, economic, progress.
and environmental potential of rammed earth. In a developing country, the perceived superiority of com-
Soon, improvements on the compressed earth block machine pressed earth block can be substantial. In Mali, for example, it is
began to appear in other parts of the world. By the early twentieth illegal to construct a school out of mud brick, but schools con-
century, manual and motor-driven mechanical presses with heavy structed of CEB are welcomed and often encouraged, even though
iron lids that pressed the earth into molds were in use, mostly in the machine necessary to produce the blocks can be expensive and
developing countries. Probably one of the most important moments the tradition of mud brick is well established. Additionally, while
in the history of the compressed earth block was in 1952, when CEBs can have higher compression strengths than mud brick, this
Colombian engineer Raul Ramirezwhile working at the Centro often results in a block that is smaller, producing a building with
Interamericano de Vivienda (CINVA), the Inter-American Housing less thermal mass, which results in classrooms that can be uncom-
Center in Bogotdeveloped a manually operated machine that fortably hot in the desert heat. Cement stabilizer is often an impor-
fabricates CEBs and tiles for the construction of low-cost hous- tant ingredient in CEB production to ensure a standard product.
ing. Popularly known as the Cinva-Ram, the device consists of a The capital required to purchase portland cement and fossil-fuel-
steel box whose base is filled with soil and a lever and compresses operated machinery is the great irony of using CEB in the devel-
the soil. When the lever is released, the lid can be removed and the oping world, particularly where traditional earth building thrives.
lower plate can be raised even further to extract the CEB. Using Nevertheless, governmental, nongovernmental, and aid organiza-
this process, a few workmen can produce up to five hundred blocks tions, as well as local citizens, believe the machines technological
a day.6 Portability and ease of use make this particular invention advancements often outweigh the capital needed to sustain them.
extremely attractive for the production of CEBs, and it is still com- Nevertheless, there are advantages to using compressed
monly found in use throughout the world. earth blocks. Very little moisture is required to produce a CEB, so
Today, the mechanisms created to produce CEBs are very the blocks do not shrink and crack. The precision of shaping earth
advanced, and an entire industry has developed around them. Some in a steel mold results in a standardized product, and its sharp edges

Introduction 157
A detail of naturally compressed earth,
called tepetate, which was carved from
the ground.

158 compres sed e arth Block

and smooth surfaces allow a CEB to be left exposed as a finish mate-
rial. In addition to the aesthetic quality of the block, its standard-
ization can result in more accurate cost estimating. CEBs can also
be used immediately out of the machine, whereas mud bricks take
weeks to cure before they can be handled. They can also be stronger
than mud brick or rammed earth, depending on the soil and com-
pression strength of the machine, and a range of block sizes can be
produced from a single machine. Some of the machines, such as
those with a hydraulic press, require very little manual labor com-
pared to that necessary to produce mud brick or rammed earth.
The soil can also come directly from the site, saving transporta-
tion costs.
Like other earth-based technologies, the soil mixture used
to produce a CEB can be quite varied. The recommended range of
percentages for each component is 1030 percent clay, 1525 per-
cent silt, 1535 percent fine sand, 1535 percent coarse sand, and 10
70 percent fine gravel.8 No rock or coarse gravel can be present in
the soil as it may disrupt the compaction or damage the machine.
In CEB production it is necessary to include a stabilizer, such as
portland cement, emulsified asphalt, or lime. Unlike rammed earth,
which is compacted repeatedly, the blocks are compressed only
once in the press, and the soil mixture does not bind completely, so
the blocks must include this additional ingredient to reach a higher
compressive strength than mud brick.9
After two hundred years of use in the industrialized world,
compressed earth block still maintains its identity as a material of
social transformation and expression. Architect Mauricio Rocha
used traditional tepetate, blocks of earth that have been naturally
compacted by geological forces, for a Center for the Blind, creat-
ing a thoughtful and responsive architecture while accommodat-
ing the projects strict construction budget. Heikkinen-Komonen
Architects explored the architectural, economic, and contextual
potential of CEB construction in their Villa Eila and Kahere Eila
Poultry Farming School. D. Francis Kr used it in a design for a
school in his village where the construction of the school was itself
part of the education. Expanding upon Cointerauxs beliefs, de Paor
Architects commented on globalism, ecology, and the specifics of
place with their installation of compressed peat blocks.

Introduction 159
Architecture Firm Villa Eila is a private residence located rectangular space. Meals are also prepared
Heikkinen-Komonen Architects at the northeastern outskirts of the town of in the living room, which has built-in
Location Mali, Guinea, at an elevation of 4,790 feet cupboards and a counter. A gap between the
Mali, Guinea above sea level in the Fouta Djallon high- ceiling and the roof allows cross ventilation
Date landsthe origin of the Niger, Senegal, and to completely circulate around each indepen-
1996 Gambia rivers. Temperatures are mild, ranging dent volume.
from 62 Fahrenheit in the winter to 88 Each of the rooms is constructed of a
Round mud brick buildings with thatched during the summer. For three months during single thickness of stabilized compressed
roofs are common throughout Guinea, but the rainy season, precipitation is constant earth blocks measuring 10 by 10 by 20 inches
because traditional earthen structures have and the annual rainfall averages 20 inches. and rendered with a cement stucco. Each
become associated with poverty, fired brick, The house is sited on a narrow terraced compressed earth block is made of soil that
produced in small kilns that consume large strip of land, on a west-facing slope with contains approximately 12 percent moisture,
amounts of wood and are associated with picturesque views of the surrounding peaks. mixed with 3 to 5 percent portland cement.
progress and status, supplanted traditional A continuous roof structure, whose columns In accordance with the aims of the architects
earthen technologies. As a consequence of this and beams are constructed of hard mahogany and client, many of the building components
practice, deforestation became an increasing harvested from local forests and joined using were made by local villagers. The compressed
problem in the forests of the Fouta Djallon simple steel fasteners, shades the indoor earth blocks were made by hand using a
region of Guinea. In addition, corrugated metal and outdoor living spaces beneath it. The slope press imported from Belgium that allowed
roofing, despite its extremely poor thermal and of the roof is parallel to the slope of the site; a team of six workers to produce between
acoustical properties, especially during the hot and to protect against strong winds, thin steel 700 and 1,000 blocks a day.
and rainy seasons, began to replace traditional rods are attached to the overhangs on the east Floors are covered with glazed ceramic
thatched roofs. Eila Kiveks, the founder of and west sides of the roof, extending to the tiles handmade by women from the nearby
the Finnish development association Indigo, foundation, which anchor the roof to the village of Colci using molds built by a local
was concerned about what was happening in ground. On the east side of the house, the rods carpenter. Outside, the terrace floor is covered
the country and decided to construct a house support a woven bamboo screen that filters with red gravel. The large -inch-thick roof
that would exemplify economical and eco- the morning sunlight and gives privacy to the tiles were made by hand on site from cement,
logically efficient building and promote local outdoor toilet and bathing area. fiberglass, and plant fiber, and are curved to
traditions through simple technological In the shade of the roof are several rooms interlock and overlap each other. Woven straw
improvements. The Finnish firm Heikkinen- of varying shapes. Round volumes at each mats, another locally sourced craft, cover
Komonen Architects was commissioned to end of the villa serve as guest rooms. A square the ceilings in the northern guest room and
create a prototype house to advance existing room is used for storage and houses the the main living area and master bedroom.
technologies and conserve resources particular bath and toilet facilities. Sleeping quarters
to the local climate and economy. are connected to the living room in the large

opposite, top: South elevation

opposite, bottom: The west facade is

open to views of the mountains

Villa Eila

160 compres sed e arth Block

Site section

Site plan


162 compres sed e arth Block

top: The east facade is camouflaged by bottom left: A sublime effect is created bottom right: The ceramic floor tiles
a woven bamboo screen that blends by the alternating bands of light and were made by local potters.
with the Fouta Djallon highlands in the shadow that pass through the woven
background. bamboo screen.

Vil a Eil a 163

Architecture Firm teachers were needed. The poultry farm even- Village compounds in Guinea typically
Heikkinen-Komonen Architects tually was organized to educate five particular consist of three types of buildings: larger
Location groups: illiterate farmers, farmers literate communal structures for sleeping, smaller
Koliagbe, Kindia, Guinea enough to receive advanced instruction, structures for cooking, and covered areas
Date students from professional schools who might without walls for socializing. Buildings are
1998 establish more poultry farms, professionals usually grouped around an open space with
with academic backgrounds in fields such a single tree, where activities take place in the
In the early 1980s two Guinea natives, agrono- as veterinary studies, and university students shade and open air. The architects used this
mist Alpha Diallo and his uncle, veterinarian preparing theses or final reports on topics of traditional organization as a precedent: the
Bachir Diallo, decided to help their country food and agriculture. classroom, a dormitory that houses twelve
by creating a poultry farm to improve the In 1998, Kiveks commissioned Mikko students, and teachers quarters define a court-
Guinean diet, which lacked sufficient protein. Heikkinen and Markku Komonen, Finnish yard with a tree in the center and a water tower
Education, teaching others to raise and sell architects who had gained great experience marking the main entrance. A 4-foot grid on
chickens, was to be the primary directive of the in the region after completing several projects which the 3,660 square feet of buildings are
farm. Alpha had studied in Europe and was beginning with Villa Eila, to design a campus arranged dictates the relationships between
well known for his translation of the famous for the school. They continued their approach them and their proportions. The ramifications
Finnish poem The Kalevala into his native of improving upon regional building tech- of this grid can also be seen in the details of
language, Fulani. His work caught the atten- niques by employing compressed earth block, the individual buildings. Glass is arranged
tion of Eila Kiveks, the founder of Indigo, a rather than using crudely fired bricks, an in rows of fixed and operable windows that add
nongovernmental association dedicated to inferior material whose production requires diversity to the rigid layout and also allow for
helping developing countries. Alpha eventu- a tremendous amount of wood. They also interiors that are bright and airy, reducing the
ally became Kivekss translator and told her avoided using corrugated metal roofs and massiveness of the earthen walls.
of his and his uncles poultry project. Although instead designed a process in which the build- A double-layer load-bearing wall of stabi-
Alpha died in 1984, Kiveks asked Bachir to ers could make cement roof tiles by hand. lized compressed earth blocks resting upon a
begin the poultry farm with the support of The architects also imported their knowledge concrete foundation is the primary building
Indigo, and in 1986, the poultry farm opened of wood construction techniques and devel- enclosure used throughout the campus. This
in the village of Koliagbe, becoming an imme- oped a strategy for the campus based upon gives the buildings considerable thermal mass,
diate success. vernacular planning methods to create an Aga keeping them comfortable throughout the
Because of the rapid success and growth Khan Awardwinning project whose history, year. Workers using a hand press were able to
of the educational component of the poultry philosophy, and architecture is a hybrid of make up to a thousand blocks per day, on site,
farm, classrooms and housing for students and Finnish and Guinean traditions. from locally sourced soil. The manual press

opposite, top: A water tower marks opposite, bottom: The thick walls are made
the entrance to the compressed earth of a double layer of stabilized compressed
block campus. earth blocks exposed to the exterior, which
rest upon a concrete foundation.

Kahere Eila Poultry Farming School

164 compres sed e arth Block

produced blocks with a hard, smooth finish,
so they were left exposed on the exterior of
each building. To define the main entrances
of the buildings, the compressed earth block of
the facades was rendered smooth and painted
to indicate the activities that take place within.
The main classroom is painted indigo, the
porches to the students quarters are yellow,
and the entry to the teachers quarters is green.
The interiors are rendered and painted a cream
color, further creating a sense of lightness. South elevations

A Finnish sensibility of wood detailing,

imported by the architects, appears through-
out the campus. The wood trusses were
designed so that large spans could be created
using short pieces of the hardwood acajou and
softer samba that are available locally. The roof
is supported by elegant trusses made from
these woods, which are connected with steel
fasteners and a metal tension rod. Tall columns
that support the entry porch to the classroom North elevation

are also made of smaller pieces of wood spliced

together using joinery reminiscent of modern-
ist Finnish detailing. The poultry farming
school also introduced compressed earth
block skills to masons working on the project,
resulting in a new trade in the region. After
completing the school, the local builder
who led the project started his own business
and went on to use compressed earth block in
the construction of a mosque and several
private houses.

Floor plan

166 compres sed e arth Block

top: To illiterate farmers, the indigo bottom left: Handmade roof tiles are bottom right: Cream-colored
painted facade indicates that the building supported by the trusses, and tall columns compressed earth block walls reflect
is a classroom. that are made of small-dimensioned, locally light from the clerestory windows.
sourced lumber use steel fasteners and
metal tension rods to create large spans.

K ahere Eil a Poultry Farming School 167

Architecture Firm The 23 tons of bricks used for the installa- molded in the same profile as the bricks dis-
de Paor Architects tion were donated by Bord na Mna, an Irish played nine cards that told the story of Venices
Location company that harvests 1 million cubic yards of beloved saint, San Nicolo, whose remains
Venice, Italy peat each year for fuel. The 40,224 compressed are said to lie nearby in a church on the Lido
Date bricks, each measuring 16 by 12 by 10 inches, that bears his name. This dark, damp labyrin-
2000 were bound with polypropylene straps into thine monolith became a tomb or reliquary
1,676 individually numbered bales. The fuel for Saint Nicholas, which inspired an alterna-
Peat bogs are one of Irelands most character- value of this mass of peat was calculated to be tive name for the installationSantas
istic features. They cover approximately 3,500 therm, and it contained 2,838 tons of Grotto. It also evoked the notion of the
one-sixth of the island (3 million acres) and native Irish water and 141 pounds of sulphur, bogeyman, the etymology perhaps stems from
provide fuel, fertilizer, and animal feed. Peat statistics that also speak to the value of the the remains of humans found in the peat bogs
was so widely available during the seventeenth installation. Bricks were corbeled, measured by thousands of years after their death, perfectly
and eighteenth centuries that poor families a notch in the profile of the brick, creating a preserved because of the tanning properties
constructed houses from dried blocks of it. trapezoidal structure with a footprint of 7 by of the acidic water.
Peat is a type of soil that is formed with organic 21 bales resting on a layer of sand. Steel rein- N 3 was also intended to bring attention
matter. It is prevented from decomposing forcement bars and fiberglass mesh concealed to the fact that peat is a nonrenewable
completely because of acidic or anaerobic con- within the courses of blocks provided addi- resource, so at the end of the Biennale, de Paor
ditions, takes thousands of years to form, and tional strength for the corbeled structure. donated the 23 tons of imported Irish soil
under the right conditions is the earliest phase The plan took on an N shape, and all to Venice, a city where land is very scarce,
of coal. Architect Tom de Paor believes that a bricks were oriented north/south so that the in celebration of the Irish holiday Bloomsday,
significant portion of the bogs of Ireland will pavilion became a full-scale inhabitable carto- which celebrates James Joyce and his novel
be exhausted before the middle of the twenty- graphic N that accompanied north arrows, Ulysses. The bricks were decompressed and
first century, so when the Department of like those found on architectural drawings or spread around a public garden where the
Foreign Affairs invited the Dubliner to repre- mapsperhaps a gesture toward the general rich nutrients taken from the island country
sent Ireland at the architecture exhibition at direction of the original home of the trans- contributed to the addition of land to the
the Venice Biennale in June 2000, he decided planted soil. The N shape also gave the pavilion island city.
to use compressed peat as a way of speculating its name and formed a labyrinth defined by
on the value of land and to create a precious two narrow and slanted passageways that led
gift for the city of Venice. to a room open to the sky. Inside, rubber casts

opposite, top: N3 installed at the 2000 opposite, bottom: The 40,224 compressed
Venice Biennale peat bricks were strapped with polypro-
pylene to form a stackable building module.

N3 Elevations, sections, and floor-plan sections cut at various heights

168 compres sed e arth Block

Architecture Firm stone that had no fenestration and that sepa- partially blind, passageways were created
Taller de Arquitectura Mauricio Rocha rated the interior of the complex from the city. with stark contrasts between areas of light and
Location The grade was also shaped so that the center shadow to define entryways; and the concrete
Mexico City, Mexico of the site was slightly elevated to underline and earth walls of the complex also have a
Date the importance of the main public space at navigational system that relies on touch.
2000 the center of the complex. This bold landscape The textured walls that run the length of the
move used 70 percent of the landfill found on building at the level of the hand serve as
The Center for the Blind, designed by Mauricio the site to create the spatial and sensorial navigational devices for the blind. Rough,
Rocha, is a 150,700-square-foot complex that means by which the sightless navigate through smooth, vertical, and horizontal bands cast in
provides recreational and educational facilities the complex. the concrete base help the occupants remem-
for the blind and visually impaired. The cam- Four devices assist the blind in orienting ber the location and function of the buildings.
pus is located in the Iztapalapa borough of themselves in the complextwo of which can The buildings of the center, which include
Mexico City in a neighborhood with the citys be linked to moving the earth to the perimeter. a library, gymnasium, natatorium, auditorium,
highest concentration of persons with visual The landfill pushed to the perimeter muffles gallery of touch, and five studios dedicated to
disabilities, on a site bounded on two sides by noise from the busy streets outside the com- painting, sculpture, theater, and dance are
a busy intersection; the property was at one plex, creating a quiet campus that can be constructed of compressed earth block that
time used as a dumping ground for construc- navigated using sound. A long narrow channel was made by an interesting traditional method.
tion debris. A low budget for this project, of water spans the length of the main plaza in Called tepetate in Mexico, the secret of the
which was funded by the Mexican govern- the center of the complex, and at each bridge
ment, necessitated that economical materials traversing the channel, leading to other parts
be used, so the architect decided to employ a of the complex, one can hear water bubbling
traditional earth-building technique. Also, against the stone. Smell is the second means
rather than considering the large amount of by which one can orient oneself and navigate
landfill on the site a problem, he took the throughout the complex; aromatic plants such
potential to reuse the large amount of soil on as jasmine, rosemary, and basil, and lemon
the site as a departure point for the project and trees were planted strategically throughout the
he created a strategy to reorganize the landfill earth berms that lie at the periphery, to allow
to define orientation devices for the sightless. people to navigate by scent. The fragrance
The landfill was pushed to the perimeter of orange trees planted along side the water
of the site and compacted against a massive, channel reinforces the multisensorial means
330-foot long blind retaining wall made of by which one experiences the site. For the

opposite, top: The narrow channel of water opposite, bottom: Textures cast into the above: Tepetate infills a concrete structure,
that runs the length of the main plaza walls aid in navigation. Students who allowing for walls as high as 40 feet tall and
allows users to navigate with the sound of can still perceive light but cannot make interiors with large spans.
bubbling water. out details are guided by the stark
contrasts between light and shadow in

Center for the Blind

170 compres sed e arth Block

material is the soil used; naturally compressed materials, despite the fact that they were not the Blind. But here the blocks are not load
caliche is the main component of this ochre- as economical as the traditional material. bearing; the tepetate serves as an infill skin
colored soil. Whereas modern compressed The architect decided to use tepetate because that is supported by a concrete structure. In
earth block is made by machine, tepetate is the average Mexican laborer is very familiar this way, Rocha was able to build walls as
soil that was compressed over time though with this material, and it does not require high as 40 feet tall and to have considerably
geological forces and cut from the earth precision, making it is easy to build with and large spans between them. The imprecision of
in blocks. Unlike stone, tepetate is still friable inexpensive. Additionally, there is little the tepetate combined with refined concrete
and can be shaped easily. It was used in rural maintenance associated with the material, creates the sensorial atmosphere of the com-
vernacular homes in the high plains of and it ages very well. plex, where light and shadow, textures, smells,
Mexico during the nineteenth century, but its In the past, it would have been difficult to tradition, and modernity amount to the
use waned as it was replaced by industrial use tepetate at the scale found at the Center for overall experience.

Site plan


172 compres sed e arth Block

The main buildings of the Center for
the Blind are made of inexpensive,
naturally compressed earth, called
tepetate, which was carved from the

architecture firm earth blocks, which were used for the walls Krs village. Traditional roofs in Burkina
Dibdo Francis Kr and even the ceiling of the school. Faso are made of thatch, but increasingly,
Location The bricks used for the school have a small corrugated metal roofs are appearing in new
Gando, Burkina Faso amount of cement mixed with the earth to construction. During rainstorms, however,
Date increase their compressive strength and to they become very noisy due to rain pounding
2001 protect them from the seasonal rains. Local against the metal. Here, a metal roof was used,
villagers used a hand press, which allowed but an airspace between the earthen ceiling and
There is a small school that is a marvel of them to manufacture a large number of bricks the roof creates an acoustical buffer. Welding
ingenuity and community spirit on the south- each day, and construction of the walls was was already a well-established local skill in
ern plains of Burkina Faso, in the small village performed by them. Above each load-bearing the community and Kr took advantage of
of Gando. It came into existence primarily wall is a concrete bond beam; metal rods the fact when designing the ingenious truss
because of a young architects desire to build a spanning the space of each classroom are system that supports the lofty metal roof.
school for the children of his village. Architect anchored to the bond beam and suspend a Each lightweight metal truss was built to be
Dibdo Francis Kr was the first person from ceiling made of compressed earth block. This lifted onto the structure without the use of
Gando to be educated abroad, and believing ceiling moderates indoor air temperature cranes and was fabricated using simple tools
that education was the primary vehicle for the and creates an acoustical break between the reinforcement bar, a hacksaw, and a small
advancement of his community, he decided classroom and the metal roof above. welding machine. The schools east-west
to ensure that education be available in his The thick earth walls help keep the orientation ensures that very little of the wall
village. While studying architecture in Berlin, interior spaces of the school cool. The three surface of the school is heated by the direct rays
Kr and a group of friends created a fundrais- earthen classrooms stand independent and of the rising and setting sun, and during midday
ing association called Schulbausteine fr disconnected from each other, and airflow the roof keeps the entire building in shade.
Gando, Bricks for the Gando School, to pro- around each classroom further assists in keep- Gandos Primary School is a model for
mote the construction of a new school for the ing interior temperatures down, which also client-village activism and many near-by
children of his town. He was also able to obtain helps students stay alert on hot days. The villages have followed its lead by forming
the support of the government agency separation of classroom spaces also defines organizations to construct their own schools.
LOCOMAT of Burkina Faso, which helped small outdoor spaces in the shade of the can- Furthermore, the skills that villagers learned in
train masons in the community to make bricks opy, which are used as outdoor classrooms the construction of the school have attracted
using compressed stabilized earth. Men, and break spaces. the attention of local authorities, who now
women, and children of the village were A soaring metal roof takes advantage of hire them to construct municipal projects in
trained to construct stabilized compressed the skills and resources already available in the region.

opposite, top: South elevation

opposite, bottom: The walls, floors,

and ceiling of each classroom are
constructed of earth.

Primary School

174 compres sed e arth Block



Exploded axonometric drawing Floor plan

176 compres sed e arth Block

top left: The metal truss system is made top right: Students tend to the herbs bottom: Alternating enclosed and open-
of a reinforcing steel rod and was built and vegetables growing in the school air spaces beneath the canopy create
by villagers using only a hacksaw and a garden. small, shaded outdoor areas.
small welding machine.

Primary School 177

4Molded Earth
The availability of suitable soils for building has resulted in rich and highly earthquake resistantone reason for its use in the seismic
diverse traditions of earth architecture across the globe. According zones throughout the world, evidenced by the wealth of wattle
to some estimates, there are approximately twenty techniques of and daub structures in South America and Indonesia. But seis-
earth building on the planet.1 Architects are beginning to rethink mic zones are not the only environments where wattle and daub
traditional forms of earthen construction and modify them in can be found. Many of the Native American cultures of North
response to the needs of a changing world. Natural disasters, the America employed wattle and daub as a primary means of con-
need for low-cost housing, cultural preservation, and sustainability struction, and the United Kingdom is still home to a sophisticated
are some of the forces that push architects to reinterpret past earth- array of examples of the technique. Indigenous and European
building traditions, creating new kinds of architecture and updated Australians, too, used wattle and daub; and it also flourishes through-
versions of ancient techniques. To follow are a handful of important out Europe and Asia.
building traditions that architects have creatively transformed into Even though wattle and daub is still widely used throughout
perhaps some of the most radically experimental works of contem- the globe, the technique is quickly being replaced by industrial sys-
porary earthen architecture. tems and the materials that accompany them. Where branches and
mud were once common, expanded metal lath and cement stucco
Wattle and Daub have taken over. Nevertheless, many cultures throughout the world
The oldest of earth-building technologies, and perhaps of all build- still practice traditional wattle and daub techniques and some archi-
ing technologies, may be wattle and daub.2 Before mankind began to tects, like Chileans Smiljan Radic and Marcelo Corts, have given
create societies based on farming, hunter-gatherer societies needed the ancient technology new life by reexamining and reinterpreting
portable shelter or shelter that could be made with the materials it in an era when it is often thought to be unsuited to contempo-
on hand that accommodated a nomadic lifestyle. Branches could rary society. Radics unique architectural installation, Extension for
be carried or found and used to build a structural framework, and the Charcoal Burners Hut, expressed and revealed both the formal
plastering mud onto this matrix of woven branches created pro- and traditional aspects of earthen construction by exposing a pro-
tection from the sun and wind. This technique, called wattle and cess that typically is partially buried; and Marcelo Cortss quincha
daub, was used by the earliest people of every inhabitable conti- metlica used steel to create a system that is a hybrid of traditional
nent.3 In excavations of the oldest known settlements, like Jericho and industrial technologies.
and atalhyk, wattle and daub structures predate the more per-
manent structures constructed of mud brick or rammed earth. Cob
As the name suggests, wattle and daub comprises two com- Cob is the simplest of all earth-building techniques. It requires very
ponents. A wattle is a woven structure of small plant elements few tools and no formwork or internal structure, and consists of pil-
held together in a stiff frame. Reeds, bamboo, branches, and twigs ing and molding mud to create walls. The cob mix is similar to that of
are common materials used to construct the lattice. Mud, or daub, mud brick, but much stiffer and with a somewhat higher straw con-
adheres to the irregularities and overhangs of the organic matrix. tent, which helps the mud hold its form as it is piled. Mud is shaped
The mud mixture is similar to that used for mud brick, but with by hand or trowel and set in place directly on top of a foundation to
smaller aggregate, and dung is often the organic binder. The daub an average height of approximately 18 inches around the perimeter
is then smeared on to the wattle by hand until the entire surface is of the building footprint. This is done with a pitchfork or a cob fork,
covered. When dry, the finish surface can either be a smooth final a traditional tool found in the United Kingdom, similar to a pitch-
coat of daub, or it can be whitewashed with lime. fork but designed specifically for use in cob construction.4 Each 18-
Unlike other earth-building systems that are extremely inch layer is called a lift, and it must be left to dry sufficiently before
massive, wattle and daub can be quite thin, but it does not have the next one is applied. Openings for windows and doors are shaped
the same thermal mass properties of rammed earth or mud brick. as the wall grows, and wood or stone lintels are added to span the
However, because the woven structure is extremely flexible, it is openings only after the wall has cured. Because of the nature of

Introduction 179
the process, cob structures can be highly sculptural. A straight line is on the tradition, the formwork might be left, becoming the pri-
not the norm in a cob construction, but window and door openings mary structural support for the building, or the formwork is wat-
and walls can be leveled using a paring iron to create cleaner edges tle, embedding further reinforcement in the wall; in other cases,
and walls. the shuttering is removed, and the wall is allowed to dry as if it
The simplicity of the system has allowed the technique to were one giant mud brick.
flourish throughout the world. Native Americans piled mud to cre- The Juana Briones House, built in 1845 near San Francisco,
ate large multistory dwellings. The ruins of Casa Grande, built of California, is a unique example of this type of construction, which
cob between 1200 and 1450 by the Hohokam culture near Phoenix, is called encajonado, a Spanish term that describes stuffing mud
Arizona, became the first prehistoric cultural site to be protected into a framework of lath.7 In the United Kingdom, many houses
in the United States.5 The multistory Taos Pueblo in New Mexico, were built during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centu-
which was constructed of cob between 1000 and 1450 and is the ries by combining straw, chalk, and soil and pouring the mix into
oldest continuously occupied dwelling in North America, is still a formwork. Once the material dried, the formwork was removed
thriving village. In northern Yemen, zabur, as cob is called there, is to expose the brilliant white walls.8 This is similar to Marwan
a sophisticated tradition; multistory dwellings and fortifications of Al-Sayeds use of gypsum in a poured earth wall in Phoenix,
piled mud are still being constructed today by Bedouin cultures. In Arizona; the color helps bring a quality of lightness to the massive
the United Kingdom, where the word cob originated, building with poured earth walls while reflecting the desert sun. Nader Khalilis
piled mud flourished from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century. superadobe, in which flexible sacks of earth are stacked to create
In Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England, many quick, low-cost disaster housing, is a radical take on poured earth
typologies, from humble farmhouses to stately manors, as well as traditions.
the birthplace of sixteenth-century writer and explorer Sir Walter
Raleigh (founder of the first English colony in the Americas) were Extruded Earth
constructed of cob. With British colonization the use of cob spread Pushing a soil mixture through a die to create precise profiles is
to Australia, New Zealand, and North America. In New Zealand, common in the brick- and terracotta-making industry. The process
English colonists constructed over 8,000 cob houses.6 begins with mechanically mixing precise amounts of shale, clay,
Today, cob is very much alive thoughout the world. In and other soils with water. This results in building units that bene-
the United Kingdom the long, curving cob wall in Associated fit from a high degree of quality control as the soil mixture is homo-
Architects Cobtun House demonstrates how well suited this sim- geneous for each batch and profiles are equal in dimension, with
ple technique is to combining high and low technologies in an eco- flat faces that were formed by steel molds. As profiles are extruded,
logical design. In Heringer and Roswags design for a childrens the soft, moist clay is cut with a series of wires to the correct length,
school in Bangladesh, the sculptural potential of cob is explored after which it is air dried for several days. Following this, tradi-
in the caves carved out of the wall where students can study, play, tional bricks are fired in a kiln to the point of vitrification. Those
or sleep. bricks not entering the kiln are called green bricks, and increas-
ingly, architects are considering these as building modules because
Poured Earth the precision inherent in the process makes the production of large
Pouring earth into formwork and allowing it to dry is a technol- quantities of high-quality earthen building units possible. The soil
ogy that contains elements of wattle and daub, rammed earth, content for green bricks must have a lower clay content than those
mud brick, and cob. When wattle is used on an exterior wall headed for the kiln, but the precision of the process also allows
and an interior wall, the resulting gap is filled with mud. While for this as well as for more accurate cost estimation than is pos-
rammed earth construction requires laborious tamping, here, sible in traditional mud brick manufacturing. Also, customized
when the mud is dry, the resulting shape is achieved. Depending shapes and lengths can be created by changing the profile of the

180 Molded e arth

die or the distance of the wire cutters. Not using the kiln also saves
on fossil fuels; many brick plants maintain constant high temper-
atures in kilns by using natural gas and propane. Architect Gernot
Minke took advantage of this process in his design for a kindergar-
ten at Sorsum. Thanks to the precision of the extruding process
the bricks making up the the schools domes could be left exposed
as the finish surface, and each brick had a customized profile that
improved acoustics.

Introduction 181
architecture firm anywhere in the worlda technique he calls cement. Because the bags can be filled by hand,
Nader Khalili superadobe. the structures can be built by anyonemen,
Location Superadobe was developed as a system women, the elderly, and the young. As the
Baninajar Refugee Camp, Khuzestan for building small stand-alone structures that bags are filled, they are stacked and wound in
Date could be clustered together to serve larger increasingly smaller circular patterns to form
1995 programmatic needs without the use of domed structures.
extensive skilled labor. It was also designed As each course is layered, barbed wire
Iranian-born architect Nader Khalili has to be used in cases where both temporary and is placed between the bags. The barbed
long been interested in the earthen architec- permanent shelter was needed in areas that wire keeps the bags from slipping and gives
ture of his home country. Since founding lacked access to building materials, particularly the structure a tensile strength that is comple-
the California Institute of Earth Art and wood. What resulted is an ecologically and mentary to the compressive strength of
Architecture (Cal-Earth) in 1991, he has economically appropriate tactic to house the the earth. When the structure is complete it
expanded upon the traditional earth-building millions of people displaced by natural and is plastered with local soil that also might be
techniques of Iran, inventing unique and human disasters. mixed with lime for increased water resistance.
useful earth-building processes in response In 1995 Khalili partnered with the United Since superadobe was extensively
to important global issues. Early on, Khalili Nations Development Programme and the developed and tested in earthquake-prone
experimented with creating waterproof United Nations Refugee Agency to build California, it meets stringent building codes.
ceramic houses by setting fire to entire earthen emergency shelters for Iraqi refugees displaced The flexibility of the structure, curved forms,
structures, similar to firing a clay pot in a kiln. by the Persian Gulf War, using the super- and barbed wire reinforcement give a super-
Later, Cal-Earth collaborated with NASA to adobe technique. The refugees themselves adobe structure surprising resistance to
explore construction techniques for building constructed fifteen shelters in the Baninajar seismic forces. This makes it an ideal building
on the Moon and Mars, using the soil of those Refugee Camp in Khuzestan, Iran, at the cost system for housing victims of earthquake
celestial bodies. Khalilis attempts to vitrify of $20,000, $3000 less than the budget disasters or for housing in places with active
soil with fire eventually led to experiments allocated for the project. faults. Superadobe is an ideal housing solution
where he constructed buildings with small The superadobe technique is simple: to other natural and man-made disasters as
plastic bags that were to be filled with lunar or polypropylene sandbags 14- to 18-inches well, and, ironically, Khalili has made the
Martian soil and affixed together with Velcro. in diameter, which can be up to a mile in materials associated with earthquakes, floods,
Khalilis exhaustive, hands-on research has length, are filled with dirt, sand, or clay and and warssandbags and barbed wireinto an
evolved into an innovative technique that uses optionally mixed with a small amount of elegant and useful housing solution.
local soils to respond to human housing crises a locally sourced stabilizer, such as lime or

opposite, top left: Polypropylene sandbags opposite, bottom: The Baninajar

were filled with dirt, sand, or clay mixed Refugee Camp is a grouping of fifteen
with a small amount of lime or cement and superadobe shelters built by the refugees
wound into domes. themselves.

opposite, top right: Superadobe structure

under construction

Baninajar Refugee Camp Housing

182 Molded e arth

Architecture Firm preparation areas, offices, and a large centrally cut. Each of the custom-made bricks was set in
Planungsbro fr kologisches located assembly space. The majority of the place with the assistance of a rotational guide
Bauen Kassel building is buried underground, and the rest developed by researchers at the University
Location emerges from the ground like a fairy-tale of Kassel. The device precisely located the best
Sorsum, Germany dwelling. Domes define the topography of the position for each brick in order to optimize
Date roofscape of the kindergarten, on which wild the geometry of the dome, ensuring that the
1996 grasses are planted in a 6-inch-thick layer of structural load is efficiently directed to the
earth that covers the building, creating a foundations of the building.
Waldorf schools, which aim to educate seamless connection with the surrounding Each of the bricks has a special rounded
through multidisciplinary developmental landscape. At the peaks of each hill, a skylight surface specifically designed to absorb sound.
approaches that address the needs of the grow- suggests that there is something hidden below. This makes the large gathering space at the
ing child, are well known around the world A large dome defines the main space center ideal for the kinds of alternative educa-
for their unique architecture. Rudolf Steiner, within. Reaching almost 23 feet in height, the tional activities offered by the kindergarten.
an architect who developed this educational shell that defines this assembly space spans a The corbeled structure of the dome and the
philosophy in 1919, believed that in an indus- distance of 33 feet and is constructed of 12- sod roof are responsible for creating a warm
trial age, the handmade, the curvilinear, and inch-thick bricks. The dome rests atop a ring of space with marvelous acoustics, making it ideal
the organic had an important value in a culture fired brick columns, creating a series of arched for the lectures and musical performances
increasingly moving toward the machine- openings that allow children and visitors in they host.
made and the rectilinear. Steiner promoted and out of the space. At the center of the dome,
the use of natural materials, exposed woods, an oculus illuminates the vast space, creating
and biological forms in his buildings, a a rhythm of light and shadow that is enhanced
reflection of a philosophical movement he by the specially formed bricks that define the
developed called anthroposophy, which dome. Surrounding the larger dome are three
promoted sustainable thinking and biomor- smaller domed group areas. Rooms and corri-
phism long before trends in sustainability and dors adjacent to these gathering spaces are
blobitecture emerged. The aesthetic, material, constructed of heavy timber with experimen-
and environmental philosophy driving the tal earth infill that consists of various types of
design of the Waldorf schools is evident earth plasters, earth bricks, and oddly shaped
in the design for a Waldorf kindergarten by clay-filled cotton hoses that look like mud
German architect Gernot Minke. sausages.
The kindergarten is located in Sorsum, Unfired bricks were used to construct the
Germany, a small village of 3000 people in the domes. A similar mixture of soils used to make
district of Hildesheim in northern Germany. fired brick, but with a smaller percentage of
Its 6,400 square feet of space are devoted to clay to reduce shrinkage, was mixed in a brick
three group, gathering areas, restrooms, food factory, extruded through a mold, and wire Floor plan

Waldorf Kindergarten

184 Molded e arth

top left: Wild grasses grow in the layer of top right: Corridors within the school bottom left: Each brick has a rounded bottom right: The central dome encloses
earth covering the building, creating a exhibit various earth finishes invented by surface designed specifically to improve the large assembly area and rests on top
seamless integration with the surroundings. the architect. the acoustics of the domed spaces. of fired brick columns.

Waldorf Kindergarten 185

Architecture Firm square-foot house into three parts. The central house, reflecting light that is captured by the
Marwan Al-Sayed Architects Ltd. component is a steel-and-glass bridge contain- colorless walls. Most striking is the way the
Location ing the living and dining room, which floats walls capture the subtleties of the desert light
Phoenix, Arizona over the ravine. Large panes of low-emissivity transmitted through the translucent fabric roof
Date glass block ultraviolet and infrared solar that hovers like a cloud overhead.
1998 energy, and operable windows take advantage The roof, reminiscent of the Bedouin
of the cool breezes, vegetation, and the shade tents found in Morocco, the architects child-
The desert is characterized by oppositions. of the wash basin. hood home, is the most innovative feature
The heat of the day contrasts with the cool of In contrast to this lofty transparent bridge of the earthen dwelling. Held in tension, three
the night. Light and shadow, wet and dry are spanning the natural depression, the house is layers of fabric are attached to eleven custom
some of the polarities that are part of desert grounded on both sides by massive opaque lightweight steel trusses that were fabricated
life. The exploration of these dichotomies, earthen volumes with 18-inch-thick walls. by the client, a part-time metal worker. The
along with those of heavy and light, mass and Originally, the walls were to be rammed earth, top layer of fabric, perforated to allow some
space, earth and sky were the driving force which is an increasingly popular material in light in and to help the fabric system breathe,
behind the House of Earth and Light. Both the the Phoenix area. Ultimately, the architect and is coated with PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and
immediate site and the larger context provided contractors developed an innovative mix of designed to protect the layers below from
opportunities to create and explore space and stabilized gypsum soil that was poured into the harsh sun. It also creates a 6-foot shaded
use materials that respond to those contrasts. concrete forms and allowed to dry in place. overhang on the south facade that shelters the
In the desert, dry ephemeral riverbeds The heavy walls buffer the desert sun and walls from the sun and from the occasional
through which the scarce seasonal rain is chan- contain the more private areas of the house: rainstorm. The second layer is a PVDF (poly-
neled are called wash basins. The presence of the entry, study, kitchen, bedrooms, and bath- vinylidene fluoride) fabric that serves as a
moisture in these basins attracts an abundance rooms. In each room there are custom glass waterproof membrane and allows light trans-
of flora and fauna, and subtle breezes flow elements that reflect light and are trasnsparent mission. The final layer, an unwoven fabric
through the natural depression. This particular and colorful in contrast to the heavy, opaque, that resists solvents and acids, developed for
suburban desert site is bisected by a wash matte walls. Custom glass floor tiles define aerospace application, is suspended 6 inches
basin, making architect Marwan Al-Sayeds the entry, and the bathroom sinks are cast below the previous one, creating an insulative
vision for a long narrow house, a common glass. An 8-foot-long cast-glass desk located in air space and thermal transmission barrier
type in the desert, seem difficult. But Al-Sayed the study reflects light from its magenta sur- as well as a final layer of translucency that con-
took advantage of the unique microclimate face. Outside, water and earth are juxtaposed; stantly captures the ever-changing qualities
of the dividing wash and separated the 2,500- an illuminated lap pool extends away from the of desert light.

opposite: The walls are an innovative mix

of raw gypsum, soil, and portland cement.

House of Earth and Light

186 Molded e arth

Site plan

The House of Earth and Light is the first

modern residential building with a tensile
fabric roof structure.

188 Molded e arth

top: View from the steel-and-glass living bottom left: An 8-foot-long magenta bottom right: The lap pool and long
room toward the more private spaces, cast-glass desk contrasts with the thick earthen wall extend out into the
which are made of poured earth earth walls. landscape.

House of E arth and Light 189

Architecture Firm constructing traditional charcoal furnaces in tamping it with a short stick, forming a large
Smiljan Radic Chile. The furnaces are made by digging a smooth clay mound. A series of perforations
Location cylindrical hole in the ground that is approxi- created around the exterior of the mound
Culiprn, Chile mately 47 inches deep and 118 inches in served as flues to regulate the rate at which
Date diameter. The hole is then filled with a stack the fire inside the mud shell burned. The
1999 of chopped thorn wood to form a dome that furnace was then left to air dry for one month,
protrudes above the surface of the earth. much like a piece of pottery, after which the
Along the coast of Chile in the region sur- To amplify the process and traditional wood was ignited and allowed to burn very
rounding Culiprn, there exists a tradition of construction technique, Radic executed this slowly for four days. After the furnace cooled,
making charcoal that involves the construction entire process above ground. To do this, a wire the charcoal was removed from its mud cocoon
of hornos de barro, mud ovens that convert cage in the shape of a bowl was constructed through a small opening at the base, leaving a
ubiquitous thorn wood into fuel. Chilean to serve as the above-ground version of the self-supporting domethe mud layer having
architect Smiljan Radic was inspired by these exhumed pit in which the wood is placed. The been baked hard by the internal fire from the
charcoal furnaces and the constructions that wire cage had a secondary purpose: helping charcoal-making process. Like the traditional
surround the life of a carbonero, or charcoal hold the mud to the underside of the container. furnaces, the Extension for the Charcoal
maker, and his interest led him to demonstrate The bowl was then filled with thorn wood, Burners Hut will eventually melt back into
the process of charcoal making in his installa- which was stacked to create a sphere. the earth, leaving no record or memory.
tion Extension for the Charcoal Burners Hut. This dome-shaped pile of wood was then
There is a dying tradition of nomadic covered with a 3-inch layer of mud mixed with
charcoal makers who possess the knowledge of straw, which was shaped around the wood by

left to right: A wattle made of metal lath typically be buried in the ground, was opposite: Smoke emerges from small
gave structure to the lower hemisphere instead exposed; the lower half was filled openings in the charcoal furnace.
of the mud oven; the mud-plastered with wood to form a sphere; the wood
bottom half of the sphere, which would was encased in a mud cocoon.

Extension for the Charcoal

Burners Hut

19 0 Molded e arth
Architecture Firm and mud, and tun, a large vessel. It contains gives the walls their rough texture and high
Associated Architects four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a study, insulation value, which is supplemented
Location a modern kitchen with pantry, wine storage, by recycled newspaper embedded within the
Worcester, United Kingdom and an open-plan living space. Designed wall. At 3 feet thick, the walls create a sensuous
Date by the Birmingham-based firm Associated enclosure that keeps the house comfortably
2003 Architects, the project was the winner cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
of the Royal Institute of British Architects A corrugated metal roof caps the earth
For thousands of years cob builders, with the Sustainable Building of the Year award in walls, protecting them from the rains common
help of oxen trampling a mixture of straw, 2005 for its innovative use of an ancient build- to the climate. The roof also collects rain-
water, and clay, have built countless homes in ing material in a modern way, as well as for water, which is stored in a tank to irrigate
the bitter climate of coastal Britain by piling reducing impact on the environment through the organic vegetable garden and to supply
this mix atop a stone foundation in courses a number of ecological features that were the water-efficient washing machine and low-
molded in place by hand. After each layer employed in the design of the house. flush toilets. A large overhang on the roof
of cob was set, it was allowed to dry for two Most of the soil used to construct the also shields the walls from the summer sun.
weeks, and then another course was placed walls was taken from the excavation of the On the south side, a 6-foot-long trellis of grape
atop the previous, with doors and window site. Because the soil had a low clay content, vines cantilevers from the roof to create a
openings being shaped as the walls grew. additional soil with a higher clay content from seasonal solar shade for the large glass opening
Today, these charming historic homes, many a nearby construction site, originally destined that looks out upon the vast landscape sited
500 years old or more, continue to be occupied for a landfill, made up 25 percent of the final against the River Avon. In the summer,
and fetch high market prices; and because of mix. Using pitchforks, the mixture was piled the shade of the broad grape leaves prevents
recent increases in lumber prices and a growing atop a stone and recycled-brick foundation. solar gain through the glass, and the reverse
interest in ecological building practices, cob Because the walls were formed by hand, occurs when the leaves disappear and the low
construction in Great Britain and throughout not with formwork as in rammed earth winter sun penetrates the glass, warming the
the world is once again gaining popularity. construction, the walls have a subtle organic concrete floor and massive earthen walls.
Whereas most new cob houses reflect tradi- quality. The sand, clay, silt, and gravel from In combination with other solar features, such
tional styles, the Cobtun House is the two sites, when mixed with water and as a solar hot water heating system and heat-
representative of more contemporary straw, created a building material that pos- retaining window blinds, these elements
sensibilities. sesses a high compressive strength, dries make the Cobtun House much less expensive
The Cobtun Houses name comes from with minimal shrinkage, resists cracking and to operate than a conventional house.
the combination of the Anglo-Saxon words erosion, and is 100 percent recyclable. The
cob, the building material made from straw high straw content used as a binder in the cob

Cobtun House

192 Molded e arth

The long, south-facing cob wall of
the Cobtun House

Cobtun House 193

Site plan


194 Molded e arth

top: A trellis hangs over the terrace to help bottom: Inside, the house is cool, white,
keep the large glass wall shaded and the smooth, and highly refined, in contrast
interior cool; a solar water heating system to the textured cob exterior.
is also visible on the roof.

Cobtun House 195

Architecture Firm traditional houses in the historic center of possibilities of quincha metlica allowed
Sur Tierra Arquitectura Santiago that are constructed of mud brick set Corts to create a form that gestures toward
Location in a wood frame with metal wire holding the the incredible vistas. Formally and structur-
Pealoln, Chile mud bricks in place during earthquakes. On ally, the house is also a response to the
Date the matrix he applies a technologically sophis- geological and climatic forces of the region.
2005 ticated mixture of muda tecno-barro that The framework is constructed of steel
includes lime to control the volumetric expan- clad with a welded wire mesh and coated
Wattle and daub, called quincha in Chile, sion of clay and increase water impermeability. with an asphalt emulsion, applied to the steel
is a traditional building technology that has The spans and sculptural potential of steel to prevent corrosion caused by the lime-
existed in South America for at least 8,000 allow him to create forms and spaces that were stabilized techno-mud. Earth and steel have
years and continues to be widely used today. not previously possible with earthen construc- very different thermal expansion ratios,
Traditionally, a quincha structure is con- tion, such as the canted walls that defy the and the earth prevents the overheating of the
structed by creating a framework, or wattle, logic of traditional quincha. metal, making the underlying chassis stable
of interwoven pieces of wood, cane, or The Pealoln House is a 1,075-square- despite fluctuations in outdoor temperature.
bamboo. This matrix of vertical and horizontal foot private residence built in Pealoln, Chile, The form of the building is also a reinterpre-
members is then covered on both sides with a community on the outskirts of Santiago tation of the way traditional houses in Chiles
a mixture of mud and straw, or daub, and concerned with ecological issues. The commu- central valley respond to the sun and rain.
finished with a thin lime plaster to create a nity was settled by a group of people who Instead of the continuous porch that rings
weathertight building envelope in the form were looking for an alternative way of life that the typical house, here the walls are canted
of wall or ceiling panels. The system results was in harmony with the environment and to respond to the angle of the sun and wind-
in a lightweight flexible structure that is began to incorporate ecological ideas into the driven rain, protecting the earthen walls from
inherently earthquake resistant. construction of their houses. Local mud brick solar gain and erosion. Like traditional quin-
For several years, Chilean architect traditions and the abundance of clay in cha, the structural framework of welded steel
Marcelo Corts has been developing a techno- Pealoln made quincha the obvious choice creates an inherently earthquake-resistant
logically advanced version of this ancient for the construction of the house, and an structure. The thin mud skin is lightweight
building method. Instead of using bamboo or opportunity for Corts to experiment with and the steel frame is flexible, and unlike the
cane to create a matrix to hold mud, which is his new invention. The imposing views of the historic structures in Santiago, the Pealoln
extremely labor intensive and only allows for colorful Andes Mountains with their violets, House has no heavy mud bricks that would
short spans, he used steel and welded wire browns, and snow-capped whites against make it susceptible to collapse in an
mesha quincha metlica. Corts arrived at the sky and landscape were a driving force in earthquake.
the idea to use metal from observations of the design for the house, and the sculptural

Shading and rain diagram used to derive the form of the house

Pealoln House

196 Molded e arth

top: Thin earthen walls envelop the bottom left: Creating a framework of bottom center: The wire mesh was bottom right: The inclined walls gesture
uniquely sculptural form. steel and woven wire mesh was the first then covered with a mud mixture called toward the mountains and protect the
step in constructing this quincha tecno-barro. walls from sun and rain.
metlica structure.

Pealoln House 197

Architecture Firm resources to increase the longevity and struc- relatively flat planes. The walls were left
Heringer-Roswag Cooperation tural stability of the building. Cows were used exposed on the outside, and the interior was
Location to mix the earth and water together and rice- plastered with a light-colored clay and lime
Rudrapur, Dinajpur District, straw was introduced into the mixture to serve wash to brighten the spaces of the school. The
Bangladesh as a binder and help the walls dry evenly. The plastic nature of the cob allowed the architects
Date entire project was, as its name suggests, built to design playful cave spaces at the rear of
2005 without the need for any machinery. The mud each ground-floor classroom. Inside these inti-
mixture was piled into layers, compacted by mate, organic, haptic spaces, children can
Because of high levels of rain and a lack of clay hand, and allowed to dryafter which addi- study, meet in small groups, nap, or play.
in the extremely fertile soil, Bangledashi cob tional layers of mud were added to increase the Whereas the first story has thick walls
construction suffers from such high levels of height of the wall. and secret caves, the second story of the
erosion that buildings often must be recon- Because the construction of the school building is constructed of a light bamboo
structed each year. Furthermore, a binder such involved many techniques that were unfamil- framework containing two large rooms with
as straw is not typically available, and stone for iar to local workers, twenty-five laborers had expansive views and abundant space, with
use in foundations can not be found, as much to be trained to take part in the construction. a facade that is clad with bamboo strips on
of the landscape rests on rich deep soil. When School children and teachers were also trained wooden frames and anchored to the earthen
the German-Austrian architecture team of and participated in the construction process walls below. Views from these rooms extend
Anna Heringer and Eike Roswag were posed shaping the door and window surrounds above the treetops and past the village pond.
with the challenge of designing a school there, which instilled community pride and a sense The bamboo floor is covered with a layer of
they sought to improve the traditional cob of ownership of the school. Each door also mud, creating an earthen floor surface that
culture by addressing these problems directly bears the name of the Bengali children who references the spaces below. Diaphanous walls
and using the construction of the school as a attend the school, which forms a tradition that are constructed of bamboo strips on wooden
vehicle for educating builders and laypeople in will grow with each new school year. frames that create a play of shadows across the
ways to construct lasting, beautiful structures. While some new traditions were formed, earthen floor. A ceiling, covered with strips
This Aga Khan Awardwinning project others were transformed. Traditionally, earth of colorful, locally woven fabric, is hung from
was commissioned by the Bangladeshi Modern buildings in Bangladesh are built directly a triple layer of thick bamboo beams. These
Education and Training Institute, an organi- on the ground without any means of prevent- sturdy rafters are part of the roof structure,
zation that promotes the individual interests ing moisture from creeping into the walls. which is clad with corrugated metal and pro-
and learning speeds of children, and it was Called rising damp, this problem was pre- vides large eaves that protect the mud walls
realized with the cooperation of the Bengali vented in the construction of the school by from the heavy rainfall. An outdoor platform
development agency Dipshikha, the Shanti building a brick foundation that forms a buffer extends into the trees from the second story
Bangladesh Partnership Association, and the between the damp soil and the earthen walls, of the school, overlooking the village of pre-
Papal Childrens Mission. The Handmade which are solid enough to prevent animals dominantly small earthen dwellings.
School employs the traditions of earthen from burrowing in. When the walls were dry,
construction and adapts them using local a sharp spade was used to shape them into

opposite, top: Colorful doors create opposite, bottom: The second story
welcoming entrances on the south of the building was constructed of a light
elevation. bamboo framework clad with bamboo
strips on wooden frames.

Handmade School

198 Molded e arth

Floor plans


20 0 Molded e arth
left top: The interior was plastered with left bottom: Cave spaces for studying, right: Detail of bamboo structure
a light-colored clay-and-lime wash to playing, or napping embedded in the cob wall
brighten the spaces of the school.

Handmade School 201

Afterword The Future The fact that industrial societies and developing countries
are entering the digital era at the same time has also helped spur
interest in earthen architecture in contemporary culture. Digital
media is creating a new paradigm that is empowering the culture
of earthen architecture: the internet has allowed both developed
and developing countries to disseminate and share earth-building
The adaptations of earth-building techniques to meet the demands technologies via online discussion forums and informational
of an industrial society are often quite ingenious. Hybridizing websites in many languages that are translatable digitally on the
building systems in response to external forces such as building web. This book itself was inspired by my blog, Eartharchitecture.
codes or earthquakes, calibrating soils, and preserving traditions org, and two of the best groups for discussing earthen architecture
against encroaching technologies are some of the ways earthen are the Yahoo adobe group,
architecture is surviving, flourishing, and advancing in a modern adobe/, moderated by Quentin Wilson; and the Spanish-language
era. But what does the future of earth architecture look like? group Arqui-Terra,,
As the worlds developing nations become industrialized moderated by Jos Mara Sastre Martn.
they abandon their strong earth-building traditions. Meanwhile, The digital era is also giving birth to entire new methods
post-Fordian societies are attempting to correct the errors of a for creating earthen architecture. Perhaps one of the most inter-
wasteful, polluting, and consumptive legacy. Ecological and sus- esting advancements of the technology is a process called Contour
tainability issues are increasingly at the forefront of discussions on Crafting. Developed by Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis of the
first-world development, and earth, in the context of architecture, Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern
is the most earth friendly material that exists. While the use of California, Contour Crafting is modeled after rapid additive pro-
earth as a building material in the industrial age has never been totyping methods such as 3-D printing; the technology can take
widely seen to represent progress, that is beginning to change. As a 3-dimensional model from a computer and with a computer-
evidenced by the projects in this book, the efforts of Cointeraux, controlled gantry translate it into a physical object using a method
Fathy, Wright, Le Corbusier, and countless other architects, engi- of layered manufacturing that can employ a variety of different
neers, builders, organizations, and laypeople have not been in vain, materials to build full-scale structures. The speed and efficiency
and the inherent beauty and versatility of humankinds oldest of the technology could be used to build low-cost housing quickly
building material will likely gain greater mainstream acceptance in during natural disasters, and the technology has also attracted
the near future. Evidence of this lies in the recent updates to inter- much interest from the architectural avant-garde. Khoshnevis,
national and national building codes that include specifications on who grew up in Iran, home to many wonders of the earth-built
earthen construction. As of this writing, the American Society for world, believes that straw and mud are an excellent admixture for
Testing and Materials is updating its earthen-building guidelines, use in Contour Crafting, and he has studied using uncured clay
and the Getty Conservation Institute is supporting an international in the fabrication of structures. The housing prototypes he has
survey of existing earthen-building standards worldwide. The State hypothesized take traditional earthen architecture techniques,
of New Mexico Building Code, which at one time made it illegal such as the Nubian vault to create unsupported earth roofs, or more
to continue its thousand-year-old tradition, now includes provi- recently developed technologies, such as Nadar Khalilis super-
sions for stabilized and unstabilized mud brick, rammed earth, and adobe, as precedents. Because designs can be directly constructed
compressed earth block. Whereas many earth-building guidelines from 3-D models, extremely complex geometries can be created,
have been restrictive and often prevented the construction of tra- opening the possibility of using earth in radically new ways. Nadar
ditional earthen architecture, many codes around the world now Khalili and Behrokh Khoshnevis are also conceiving of ways that
recognize the performance of traditional elements such as wooden lunar and Martian soil can be used to construct the architecture of
bond beams, earthen mortars, and earthen plasters, and they also future interplanetary colonization. When their vision becomes a
include guidelines for hybridizing earthen architecture with con- reality the question will emerge: Can the medium for mans oldest
crete for use in foundations, lintels and bond beams. building achievements still be called Earth architecture?

Acknowledgments and contemporaneous information on very short notice; Virginia San Fratello, who in addition to inspiring me,
Enrique Larraaga, who is an incredible resource on also fearlessly accompanied me to the Middle East,
South American architecture; my brother, Michael C. South America, Mexico, Europe, Africa, and throughout
Rael, for his immediate support, interest, and assistance the United States, and who continually read drafts,
in countless aspects of this project; Patricio del Real, copyedited, offered a critical eye to the selection of
a mentor who made me recognize the potential of this images, and was invaluable to the organization and
project early on; and Quentin Wilson, a modern-day assembling of the manuscript.
Financial support for the research was made possible Cointeraux, who teaches, builds, and hosts conferences
by generous grants from the Graham Foundation for and online newsgroups on the subject of earth
Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts; the Richard A. architecture.
McMahan Fund for Excellence; the Clemson I have great respect for several professors at
Advancement Foundation; the College of Architecture, Columbia University, including Laurie Hawkinson,
Arts and Humanities at Clemson University; The Richard Plunz, Grant Marani, and Pamela Jerome, whose
Architectural League of New York; and the William F. wisdom and guidance was influential at the genesis of
Kinne Foundation at the Graduate School of Architecture, the research; as well as for my corecipient of the William
Planning and Preservation at Columbia University. F. Kinne traveling fellowship, David Green, with whom
I am indebted to the faculty and staff of Clemson I traced the legacy of Franois Cointeraux in southern
University who have supported and assisted me with France.
this work, especially Professor Jos Caban, chair of I am very grateful for the cooperation and interest of
the School of Architecture (19942005); Professor the staff of all the participating architecture firms and
Robert Hogan; Daniel Nadenicek, chair of the organizations, and the individuals and photographers
Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture; who provided me with images, drawings, information,
Professor Barbara Ramirez; Dr. Ted Cavanagh, chair of and contacts. I would like to extend my appreciation to
the School of Architecture; and Janice C. Schach, dean the Aga Kahn Trust for Culture, Eva Madshus, senior
of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. I am curator of collections and exhibitions; and Vidar
grateful to Clemson School of Architecture staff Esther Ibenfeldt, fotoarkivar / photo archivist at the National
Kauffman, Sandy Elgin, Michelle McLain; Gunnin Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design in Oslo; David
Architecture Library Reserves staff member Michael Nix; Winchester at Casa Grande Ruins National Park; and
and the staff at the Charles E. Daniel Center for Building Stacy Jed at Architecture for Humanity for helping me
Research and Urban Studies in Genoa, Italy, Andrina locate and providing me with difficult to find photos.
Molinelli Casazza, Angela Sechi Ceresoli, and Silvia Several students at the University of Colorado,
Siboldi Carroll, whose hard work, patience, and humor Clemson University, Auburn University, the University
made the process much easier and much more enjoyable. of Houston, and the Southern California Institute of
Many people have supported this work by offering Architecture were extremely helpful in organizing
their expertise on the subject, through letters of support, research, contacting architects, digitizing information,
advice, reading drafts, allowing me to experiment with and executing drawingsespecially Casey Crawmer,
earth, and pointing me in the right directions. It is their Jennie West, Blane Hammerlund, Jeremy Fletcher,
contributions that have given the work great diversity. William Smith, Robert Eleazer, and Meera Kachhla.
Thank you to Stanford Anderson, Bradley Bell, Quentin I owe a great deal to Clare Jacobson, Linda Lee, and
Branch, Karoon Davajian, Ingar Dragset, Michael Dorothy Ball at Princeton Architectural Press for their
Elmgreen, Mark Glover, Yahaira Graxirena, Paul Jaquin, assistance, patience, and guidance through every phase
Jesusita Jimenez, Dr. Antonio Moreno-Losana, Martin of this project. Linda and Dorothythank you for your
Rauch, Amanda Reeser, Ashley Schafer, Jennifer Siegel, enthusiasm, attention to detail, and understanding. I
Francisco Uvia, Maria Vergara-Wilson, and Dr. Darla could not have been more fortunate than to have had the
and Norm Whisler. opportunity to work with both of you.
Special acknowledgment goes to Simone Swan The lives of my entire extended family and ancestors
for providing me with seven years of ongoing are the inspiration for this book, as they knew the true
conversation directly related to the subject of modern meaning of living in buildings made of earth. I am greatly
earth architecture; Jerry Portwood, whose talent was appreciative of the San Fratello and Turner families for
instrumental to the success of this project; Pax, who their continual support and interest.
donated server space to facilitate file transfers of images; None of this would have been possible without the
Julian Reisenberger for providing me with translations support of my wife, traveling partner, and colleague,

Notes brick for his concrete box sculptures on permanent 28. Charles Jencks, Le Corbusier and the Continual
display in Marfa. Revolution in Architecture (New York: Monacelli Press,
6. The density of New York City is approximately 41 2000), 243.
people per acre based on population data from 2000. 29. Reyner Banham, A Critic Writes: Selected Essays by
7. Jean Dethier, Down to Earth, 8. Reyner Banham (Berkeley: University of California Press,
8. Vitruvius, Ten Books of Architecture, trans. Ingrid D. 1999), 53.
Rowland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 30. Willy Boesiger, Le Corbusier: Oeuvre Complte
Introduction 1999), 10. 19381946 (Zrich: Artemis-Aidc, 1971), 9499.
1. Many academics, authors, builders, writers, and 9. Ibid., 36. Air pockets present in pumice enable this 31. Le Corbusier, Willy Boesiger, Hans Girberger, Le
architects have noted that between one-third and one- volcanic rock to float. Corbusier, 191065 (Zrich: Verlag fr Architektur,
half of the population of the planet lives in buildings 10. Ibid., 40 1991), 254, notes that La Sainte-Baume was to be
constructed of earth, although none have cited the origin 11. Kenneth Frampton, A History of Modern Architecture, constructed of rammed earth. Sarah Menin, Nature and
of this number directly. See, for example, Jean Dethier, 3rd ed (London: Thames and Hudson, 1992), 8. Space: Aalto and Le Corbusier (New York: Routledge
Down to Earth: Adobe Architecture, An Old Idea, A New 12 Kenneth Frampton, Studies in Tectonic Culture: 2003), 152, points out that La Sainte-Baume was only
Future, trans. Ruth Eaton (New York: Facts on File, The Poetics of Construction in Ninetheeth and Twentieth one of a series of prototypes developed out of
1983), 8; Elizabeth Lynne and Cassandra Adams, eds., Century Architecture, ed. John Cava (Cambridge: Corbusiers Radiant City ideal.
Alternative Construction: Contemaporary Natural Building Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2001), 32. Simone Swan, Elegant Solutions, Saudi Aramco
Methods (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000), 45. World 50, no. 4 (1999): 1627.
8889; Paul Graham McHenry Jr., Adobe and Rammed 13. Peter Collins, Concrete: The Vision of a New 33. James Steele, An Architecture for the People:
Earth Buildings (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Architecture (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy (London: Thames
1984), vii. 2004), 2021. & Hudson, 1997), 147.
2. Paul Oliver, Earth as a Building Material Today, 14. Easton, The Rammed Earth House, 10. 34. Ibid.
Oxford Art Journal 5, no. 2, Architecture (1983): 35. 15. Martin Meade and Jean-Claude Garcias, Return 35. Swan, Elegant Solutions, 25.
Oliver points out that while no one knows how many to Earth, Architectural Review, October 1985, 67. 36. An interview with James Steele, Abdel Wahed El-
earth buildings are currently in use, estimates run as 16. Paula Lee, Cointeraux and the School of Wakil, and Hasan-Uddin Khan, Legacy of Hassan Fathy,
high as 80 million. Lynne and Adams, eds., Alternative Agritecture in Eighteenth-Century France, Journal of Saudi Aramco World 50, no. 4 (1999): 5463.
Construction, 89. This number reflects rammed earth Architectural Education 60, no. 4 (May 2007): 44. 37. A. Berle Clemensen, Casa Grande Ruins National
and mud brick combined. 17. Meade and Garcias, Return to Earth, 67. Monument, Arizona: A Centennial History of the First
3. David Easton, The Rammed Earth House (White 18. Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson Prehistoric Reserve 18821992 (United States
River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, (New York: G.P. Putnams Sons, 1895), 135. Department of the Interior/National Park Service,
1996), 5. Paul G. McHenry Jr., The Adobe Story 19. Jean Dethier A Back-to-the-Earth Approach to 1992), 38.
(Albuquerque: Univeristy of New Mexico Press, Housing, UNESCO Courier, March 1985. 38. Ibid, 51
2000), 37. 20. See Georgi Georgiev, The Renaissance of 39. Ibid, 79.
4. Orlando Romero and David Larkin, Adobe, Building Rammed Earth, Aspects Magazine, January 2001, 40. Robert Smithson, the American artist famous for
and Living with Earth (New York: Houghton Mifflin,; and Gijs Van creating modern sculpture through the manipulation of
1994), 8. The Paul Revere House is constructed of Hensbergen Gaud: A Biography (New York: Perennial, earth, is quoted naming Olmsted Americas first
timber frame with a mud brick infill, which was a common 2003), 7172. earthwork artist. See Niall Kirkwood, Manufactured
technique at the timeas noted via telephone interview 21. Ruth Eaton, Mud: An Examination of Earth Sites: Rethinking the Post-industrial (Oxford: Taylor &
with Patrick Leehey, research director at the Paul Revere Architecture, Architectural Review, October Francis, 2001), 128.
House. Rancho del Cielo, the former Western White 1981, 228. 41. Clemensen, Casa Grande Ruins, 8081.
House of former president Ronald Reagan, where he 22. Reyner Banham, A Critic Writes (London: University 42. The fatalities were reported by BBC News on
spent more than a full year of his eight years in office, of California Press, 1996), 142. Friday, December 26, 2003. See
was first named Rancho de los Picos after Spanish settler 23. Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright: An .uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3348613.stm.
Jos Jesus Pico, who moved north from Mexico and built Autobiography (San Francisco: Pomegranate, 2005), 43. For more information on organizations that offer
the original adobe house in 1871. Chairman Mao was 168. workshops and other educational opportunities, visit:
born on December 26, 1893, in Shaoshan, Hunan 24. Brendan Gill, Many Masks: A Life of Frank Lloyd and click the
Province, China, in a simple thirteen-room mud brick Wright(Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 1998), 18. organizations link.
house. Saddam Hussein was born in Tikrit, Iraq, on April 25. Easton, The Rammed Earth House, 1617. 44. For excellent essays on the politics of building with
28, 1937, and grew up in the town of Al Dawr, a mud 26. Robert Twombly, Frank Lloyd Wright: His Life earth, see Jean-Louis Bourgeois and Carollee Pelos,
brick town on the banks of the Tigris River. and His Architecture (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Spectacular Vernacular, The Adobe Tradition (New York:
5. Brigitte Huck, Donald Judd Architecture (Vienna: 1979), 263. Aperture, 1996).
Hatje Cantz, 1991), 35. It is interesting to note that, 27. Berdeana Aguar and Charles Aguar, Wrightscapes:
according to Marianne Stockebrand, director of the Frank Lloyd Wrights Landscape Designs (New York:
Chinati Foundation, Judd originally intended to use mud McGraw-Hill Professional, 2002), 249.

Chapter 1Rammed Earth Conference, Ghardaia, Algeria, December 9, 2006), 4. Easton, The Rammed Earth House, 10.
1. Anne P. Underhill et al., Systematic, Regional Survey 1. 5. Jean Dethier, Down to Earth: Adobe Architecture,
in SE Shandong Province, China, Journal of Field paper_Ghardaia_vs2-lite.pdf An Old Idea, A New Future, trans. Ruth Eaton (New York:
Archaeology (1998): 453. 8. James Talboys Wheeler, The Geography of Herodotus Facts on File, 1983), 8.
2. Gaius Plinius Secundus, ed. John F. Healy, Natural (London: Longman, Brown, Green, 1854), 41415. 6. Laurence Keefe, Earth Building, Methods and
History: A Selection (London: Penguin, 1991), 338. 9. Douglass Bailey, Prehistoric Figurines: Representation Materials, Repair and Conservation (London: Taylor &
Healy translates Plinys description of the walls as and Corporeality in the Neolithic (New York: Routledge, Francis, 2005), 67.
compacted because they are made by packing earth 2005), 168. 7. Ibid., 94.
down between two sets of shuttering, so that the material 10. Vitruvius, Ten Books on Architecture, trans. Ingrid D. 8. Energy and Resources Institute, Institut Catal
is stuffed in rather than raised up. Rowland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, dEnergia, and Asia Urbs Programme, Sustainable
3. Hugo Houben and Hubert Guillard, Earth 1999), 36. Building Design Manual (New Delhi: Energy and
Construction: A Comprehensive Guide (Rugby, UK: 11. Houben and Guillard, Earth Construction, 9. Resources Institute, 2004), 119.
Practical Action, 1994), 14. 12. Peter I. Bogucki, The Origins of Human Society: The 9. Gernot Minke, Building with Earth: Design and
4. Kathleen Deagan and Jos Mara Cruxent, Blackwell History of the World (Malden, MA: Blackwell Technology of a Sustainable Architecture (Basel:
Archaeology at La Isabela: Americas First European Town Publishers, 1999), 351. Birkhuser, 2006), 64.
(New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), 98. 13. Peter N. Peregrine and Melvin Ember, Encyclopedia
5. See, for example, Paul Graham McHenry Jr., Adobe of Prehistory (New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Chapter 4Molded Earth
and Rammed Earth Buildings: Design and Construction Publishers, 2001), 20. 1. Jean Dethier, Down to Earth: Adobe Architecture, An
(Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1984), 98. David 14. Roberta M. Delson, Planners and Reformers: Old Idea, A New Future, trans. Ruth Eaton (New York:
Easton, The Rammed Earth House (White River Junction, Urban Architects of Late Eighteenth-Century Brazil, Facts on File, 1983), 8.
VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1996), 30. Eighteenth-Century Studies 10, no. 1 (1976): 41. 2. wattle and daub, Encyclopdia Britannica Online,
6. Stephen L. Sass, The Substance of Civilization: 15. The American Heritage Dictionary of the
Materials and Human History from the Stone Age to the English Language, Fourth Edition, s.v. Adobe, http:// (September 11, 2007).
Age of Silicon (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1998), (accessed: 3. David Easton, The Rammed Earth House (White River
126. August 27, 2007) Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company,
7. Further proof that the process has achieved an 16. Telephone interview with Patrick Leehey, research 1996), 9.
industrial status is well-known California-based architect, director at the Paul Revere House, July 2007. 4. Joseph F. Kennedy, Catherine Wanek, and Michael
author, and builder David Eastons acronym for an 17. Norval Morris and David J. Rothman, eds., The Smith, The Art of Natural Building: Design, Construction,
earth-building technique he invented: P.I.S.E. Oxford History of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment Resources (Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society
(pneumatically impacted structural earth), a play on in Western Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Publishers, 2002), 132.
the French term pis. 1995), 76. 5. A. Berle Clemensen, Casa Grande Ruins National
18. Paul Graham McHenry Jr., Adobe and Rammed Monument, Arizona: A Centennial History of the First
Chapter 2Mud Brick Earth Buildings (Tucson: University of Arizona Press Prehistoric Reserve 18821992 (United States
1. Hugh Chisholm, The Encyclopdia Britannica 1984), 48. Department of the Interior/National Park Service,
(Cambridge, England, and New York: Cambridge 19. The range of values for the soil percentages were 1992), 38.
University Press, 191011), 2:382. derived from mud brick soil composition values by 6. Kennedy, et al., The Art of Natural Building
2. Michael Balter The Goddess and the Bull: Catalhyk: McHenry Jr., Adobe and Rammed Earth Buildings, 50; Design, 133.
An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization and from Gernot Minke, Building with Earth: Design and 7. More information about the Juana Briones House,
(New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), 13. Technology of a Sustainable Architecture (Basel: which is currently in danger of being destroyed, can be
3. Banister Fletcher et al., Sir Banister Fletchers A Birkhuser, 2006), 65. found at
History of Architecture(Oxford, UK: Architectural Press, 20. Stated by Mel Medina, owner of the Adobe Factory, 8. Laurence Keefe, Earth Building, Methods and
1996), 31. the largest mud brick production site in the world. Materials, Repair and Conservation (London: Taylor &
4. According to Websters New Collegiate Dictionary, 21. McHenry Jr., Adobe and Rammed Earth Buildings, 4. Francis, 2005), 13.
1974 edition, The Germanic prefix, ur- means 22.
prot(o)-, first, oldest, and original, making the
speculation of the link between the proto-city Ur and the Chapter 3Compressed Earth Block
word urban even more intriguing. 1. David Easton, The Rammed Earth House (White River
5. Hugo Houben and Hubert Guillard, Earth Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company,
Construction: A Comprehensive Guide (Rugby, UK: 1996), 10.
Practical Action, 1994), 13. 2. Ibid.
6. Bruce Bower, Ancient Birth Brick Emerges in Egypt 3. Hubert Guillard, Thierry Joffroy, and Pascal Odul,
Science News 162, no. 7(2002): 110. Compressed Earth: Manual of Design and Construction
7. T. Granier et al., The Nubian Vault: Earth Roofs in the Volume II (Brunswick, Germany: Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn
Sahel, (paper presented at the Living in Hot Deserts Verlagsgesellscahft mbH, 1985), 10.

Design Credits Center of Gravity Foundation Hall Casa Corralones
Designers: John Frane, Hadrian Predock Designers: Mathias Klotz, Magdalena Bernstein
Residence at Meteor Vineyards Prada Marfa
Designers: James Cutler, Bruce Anderson Designers: Michael Elmgreen, Ingar Dragset,
Vineyard Residence Ronald Rael, Virginia San Fratello, Joerg Boettger
Designers: John Wardle, Andrew Wong, Fiona Dunin, Christines House
Grant Roberts, Aimee Goodwin, Tarryn Deeble, Designers: Amy Green Bullington, Stephen Long
Chapter 1Rammed Earth Zoe Geyer, Fiona Lynch
Rammed Earth Houses Rosie Joe House Chapter 3Compressed Earth Block
Designers: Francoise Jourda, Gilles Perraudin Designers: Natalie Baker-Wadsworth. Larry Curtis, Villa Eila
Bowali Visitor Information Centre Kristofer Larsen, Mitch McComb, Clio Miller, Designers: Mikko Heikkinen, Markku Komonen
Designers: Glenn Murcutt, Phil Harris, Adrian Welke Jimmy Nielsen, Aaron Raymond, Scott Woodruff Kahere Eila Poultry Farming School
Low Compound Zousei Architecture Designers: Mikko Heikkinen, Markku Komonen
Designers: Eddie Jones, Neal Jones, Doyle Hostetler, Designers: Manabu Sawase, Takehiko Nez N3
Harold Williams Amankora Bhutan Resorts Designer: Tom de Paor
Ooi House Designer: Kerry Hill Center for the Blind
Designers: Kerry Hill, Rowena Hockin, Albano Red Hill Residence Designer: Mauricio Rocha
Daminato, Robert Allan Designers: Chris Botterill, Christopher Harty, Primary School
Palmer-Rose House Rhonda Mentiplay Designers: Dibdo Francis Kr
Designer: Rick Joy Back 40 House
Poll House, Margaret River Designers: Andy Powell, Jason Gallo Chapter 4Moulded Earth
Designers: Gary Marinko, Jill Marinko NkMip Desert Interpretive Centre Baninajar Refugee Camp Housing
Thurgoona Campus of Charles Sturt University Designers: Bruce Haden, Brady Dunlop, Designer: Nader Khalili
Designer: Marci Webster-Mannison Norm Hotson, Stephanie Forsythe, Tina Hubert, Waldorf Kindergarten
Chapel of Reconciliation Julie Bogdanowicz Designer: Gernot Minke
Designers: Rudolf Reitermann, Peter Sassenroth Residence 1 House of Earth and Light
Masons Bend Community Center Designers: Mary Hardin, John Folan Designer: Marwan Al-Sayed
Designers: Forrest Fulton, Adam Gerndt, Dale Rush, Extension for the Charcoal Burners Hut
Jon Shumann Chapter 2Mud Brick Designers: Smiljan Radic, Marcela Correa
National Wine Centre La Luz Community Cobtun House
Designers: Richard Desgrand, Philip Cox, Designer: Antoine Predock Designers: Martin Bull, John Christophers,
Steve Grieve Matthews Residence Simon Jesson, Richard Slawson, Adam Wardle
Eden Project Visitor Centre Designer: William Bruder Pealoln House
Designers: Nicholas Grimshaw, Andrew Whalley, The Eco House Designer: Marcelo Corts
Jolyon Brewis, Vincent Chang, David Kirkland, Designer: Sverre Fehn Handmade School
Michael Pawlyn, Jason Ahmed, Vanessa Bartulovic, Camacho Residence Designers: Anna Heringer, Eike Roswag
Dean Boston, Chris Brieger, Antje Bulthaup, Designer: Simone Swan
Amanda Davis, Florian Eckardt, Alex Haw, Arrillhjere Demonstration House
Perry Hooper, Bill Horgan, Oliver Konrath, Designer: Brendan Meney
Angelika Kovacic, Quintin Lake, Richard Morrell, Druk White Lotus School
Tim Narey, Monica Niggemeyer, Killian OSullivan, Designers: Sean Macintosh, Roland Reinardy,
Debra Penn, Martin Pirnie, Juan Porral-Hermida, Caroline Sohie, Jonathan Rose, Ian Hazard,
Mustafa Salman, Tan Su Ling James Fleming, Masato Minami, Martin Self,
Sihlhlzli Sports Facility Storage Sheds and Davina Rooney, Omar Diallo, Rory McGowan,
Chronometry Tower Francesca Galeazzi, Dorothee Richter,
Designer: Roger Boltshauser Marek Monczakowski, Ian Grace, Leslie Dep,
Split House Jess Siddhu, Neil Marlow, Vicky Coy
Designer: Yung Ho Chang Bodega en Los Robles
Cemetery Extension and Chapel of Rest Designers: Jos Cruz Ovalle, Hernn Cruz, Ana Turell
Designers: Stefan Marte, Bernhard Marte Cocuy Pecayero Distillery
Designer: Rafael Mattar Neri

20 6
Selected Bibliography Lee, Paula. Franois Cointeraux and the School of
Agritecture in Eighteenth-Century France. Journal
of Architectural Education 60 (2007): 3946.
McHenry, Paul Graham Jr. Adobe and Rammed Earth
Buildings. Tucson: University of Arizona Press,
. Adobe and Rammed Earth Buildings: Design and
Bourgeois, Jean-Louis, and Carollee Pelos. Spectacular Construction. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1984.
Vernacular: The Adobe Tradition. New York: Aperture, . Adobe: Build It Yourself. Tucson: University of
1996. Arizona Press, 1985.
Bretts, M.C., and T.A.H. Miller. Rammed Earth Walls . The Adobe Story: A Global Treasure. Albuquerque:
for Buildings. U.S. Department of Agriculture University of New Mexico Press, 1996.
Farmers Bulletin 1500 (1937). Minke, Gernot. Building with Earth: Design and
Damluji, Salma Samar. The Valley of Mud Brick Technology of a Sustainable Architecture. Basel:
Architecture: Shibam, Tarim & Wadi Hadramut. Birkhuser, 2006.
Reading, U.K.: Garnet Publishing Limited, 1997. Morris, James, and Suzanne Preston Blier. Butabu:
Dethier, Jean. Down to Earth: Adobe Architecture, An Old Adobe Architecture of West Africa. New York:
Idea, A New Future. Translated by Ruth Eaton. Princeton Architectural Press, 2003.
New York: Facts on File, 1983. Olvier, Paul. Dwellings: The Vernacular House World
Earth Architecture. Wide. London: Phaidon Press, 2003.
Easton, David. The Rammed Earth House. White River, Romero, Orlando. Adobe: Building and Living with Earth.
VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1996. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
Facey, William. Back to Earth: Adobe Building in Saudi Rudofsky, Bernard. Architecture Without Architects: An
Arabia. London: Al-Turath with the London Centre Introduction to Non-Pedigreed Architecture. Garden
of Arab Studies, 1997. City, NY: Museum of Modern Art and Doubleday,
Fathy, Hassan. Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment 1964.
in Rural Egypt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Spears, Beverley. American Adobes: Rural Houses of
1973. Northern New Mexico. Albuquerque: University of
Gruner, Dorothee, and Jean Dethier. Banco: Adobe New Mexico Press, 1986.
Mosques of the Inner Niger Delta. Milan: 5 Continents Steele, James. An Architecture for People: The Complete
Editions, 2003. Works of Hassan Fathy. London: Thames & Hudson,
Guillard, Hubert, Thierry Joffroy, and Pascal Odul. 1997.
Compressed Earth: Manual of Design and . Hassan Fathy. London: St. Martins Press, 1988.
Construction Volume II. Brunswick, Germany: Friedr. Steen, Athena, and Bill Steen. Built by Hand. Salt Lake
Vieweg & Sohn Verlagsgesellscahft mbH, 1985. City, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2003.
Houben, Hugo, and Hubert Guilard. Earth Construction: Tibbets, Joseph M. The Earthbuilders Encyclopedia:
A Comprehensive Guide. Rugby, U.K.: Practical The Master Alphabetical Reference for Adobe &
Action, 1994. Rammed Earth. Bosque, NM: Southwest Solaradobe
Kapfinger, Otto. Rammed Earth. Basel: Birkhuser, School, 1989.
2001. Vitruvius. Ten Books on Architecture. Translated by Ingrid
Keable, Julian. Rammed Earth Structure: A Code of D. Rowland. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Practice. London: Intermediate Technology Press, 1999.
Publications, 1996.
Keefe, Laurence. Earth Building: Methods and Materials,
Repair and Conservation. New York: Taylor & Francis,
Khalili, Nader. Racing Alone: A Visionary Architects
Quest for Houses Made with Earth and Fire. New
York: Harper & Row, 1983.

Image Credits Nobuaki Nakagawa 45, 8991
Rafael Mattar Neri, Arquitectos Asociados 143
Alberto Piovano 14447
Planungsbro fr kologisches Bauen Kassel 185
Jason Predock 73, 75
Juan Purcell 138, 139, 141
Smiljan Radic 190, 191
All drawings respective architects. Ronald Rael 9, 21, 151b
Christian Richters 135t
Adobe Alliance 127, 128tr, 129l Rick Joy Architects 32, 34, 35tr
Aman Resorts 93, 95 Jacqueline Stevenson 37, 39
Arkitekt Sverre Fehn AS, 12325 Sur Tierra Arquitectura 197
Atelier FCJZ 6567 Derek Swalwell 41, 42r, 43
Don Barker 135b, 137tl, 137tr Taller de Arquitectura Mauricio Rocha 170, 171, 173
Ilinca Bazgan 101, 103 Bill Timmerman 18789
Peter Bennett 9799 Troppo Architects 25, 27
Mark Boisclair 29t, 29br Onerva Utriainen 161, 165, 166
Bolthauser Architekten 6063 Marci Webster-Mannison 42l
Brendan J. Meney Architects 13133 Milton Woodley, reproduced with the kind permission of
Cal-Earth Institute / Aga Khan Trust for Culture 183 the University of Adelaide, South Australia 55
Peter Cook / VIEW 57, 59 Scott Woodruff 86tl, 86bl
de Paor Architects 169
Dibdo Francis Kr 175, 177
James Evans 151t
Martin Farquharson 31t, 31cl, 31cr
John Folan and Mary Hardin 109, 111
Trevor Fox 53bl, 53br
Catherine Gasmier reproduced with the kind permission
of the University of Adelaide, South Australia 53t
John Gollings 31b
George Grant. Courtesy of The National Park Service:
The Western Archeological and Conservation Center
13c, 13r
Art Grice 77, 79
Chinch Gryniewicz 137b
Heikkinen-Komonen Architects 163, 167
Daniel Hennessy 84, 85, 86r, 87
Henrik Hille 122
Kurt Hrbst 199, 201
Timothy Hursley 29bl, 33, 35 tl, 35b, 49, 50tl,
50tr, 51, 117, 119, 153, 155
William Henry Jackson. Image courtesy Colorado
Historical Society WHJ14397/10037869.
All rights reserved. 131
Jesusita Jimenez 128tl, 129r
Courtesy Jourda & Perraudin Partenaires 23
Lizette Kabre 149
Bruno Klomfar 45, 47, 69t, 71bl
Martine Hamilton Knight 193, 195
Niel Koppes 121
Nic Lehoux 23, 105, 107
Ignacio Martinez 69b, 71tl, 71r
Trevor Mein 81, 83