In the field of architecture, earth is a material that plays a vital part and is the basis of any kind of construction process. Earth as a material is very closely associated with the environment and has an aesthetic sense of its own. Even the very line of similarity between geology, physics, architecture and art, is the granular material of earth. In short, earth architecture involves using earth, the very natural and abundantly available material, for designing and constructing buildings.
Understanding Earth Architecture
People since the ancient time have used earth related materials such as clay, sand, straw and compressed earth. There are various books and events in the history that are dedicated to this unique theme of earth architecture. Romain Anger and Laetitia Fontaine have also penned a book based on earth architecture - Batir en Terre. The book includes the architectural description of the Shibam town in Yemen and offers a detailed explanation of the physio-chemical properties of earth.
Some prominent examples of Earth construction have been projects such as de Paor architects’ Pavilion for the Venice Bienale, which was built out of 21 tons of Irish peat. Another example is ‘The Ethics of Dust’ by the Otero-Pailos which displays interiors with dust in latex assembled as an interior facade. Considering earth architecture, the ingredients that form the essential part of the construction works would range from smoke, dankness, debris, exhaust, weeds and insects, factors that in reality constitutes the environment. Also, Earth Architecture can’t be explained without mentioning the world’s greatest earthen building – The Great Mosque of Djenne, Mali, Africa.
The ancient innovative earth buildings compel us to think of the odor of soil and the emissions from our body as the basic components of future architecture. One more aspect that runs deep into Earth Architecture is its characteristics of creating a climate conscious architecture, which while considering the present condition, acts in accordance with the climatic situation of global warming. Moreover, the aspect also helps in understanding and finding unique solutions to reduce desertification in the various regions such as the Sahel region of Africa, thus preventing the winds from damaging the land and making it inhabitable for the people there.
Styles of Earth Architecture
Some of the conventional styles of earth architecture include adobe, cob, straw, and compressed earth blocks (CEBs). Compressed Earth Block is a method which makes use of clay, sand, lime or Portland cement for the construction purpose. However, architecture involving clay-like lumps of soil and straw can be defined as cob houses. Some houses enjoy the benefit of natural insulation. These are structures that lie mostly under the ground surface and are popularly known as earth sheltered architecture. If the architecture involves soil combined with water proofing additives, the architects view them as rammed earth construction. Further, there are those houses made up of huge bundles of hay or straw – known as straw bale earth architecture. The last of its kind is the adobe construction which involves bricks used after heating them in the sun.
Moreover, using earth in constructional processes is highly economical and helps in saving energy. Moreover, earth lasts for a longer duration and is also environment friendly. Thus, keeping in mind the present environmental concerns, it is high time that man started using the forces that are close to nature and also conserve the same.