Author and architect, Ronald Rael, says, “Currently it is estimated that one half of the world’s population—approximately three billion people on six continents—lives or works in buildings constructed of earth. And while the vast legacy of traditional and vernacular earthen construction has been widely discussed, little attention has been paid to the contemporary tradition of earth architecture. “
As a result, Ronald Rael, an assistant professor of architecture at The University of California, Berkeley, founded Eartharchitecture.org as a web clearinghouse of information on the subject. He also published a book on the subject.
Both the website and book provide the kind of information any sustainable architect or builder should have on hand.
Specifically, both the website and book provide visitors with a history of building with earth in the modern era. It focuses on projects constructed in the last few decades that use rammed earth, mud brick, compressed earth, cob, and other techniques.
Rael’s website states it provides “a selection of more than 40 projects that exemplify new, creative uses of the oldest building material on the planet.”
Rael adds that his narrative addresses “the misconceptions associated with earth architecture. Many assume that it’s only used for housing in poor rural areas—but there are examples of airports, embassies, hospitals, museums, and factories that are made of earth. It’s also assumed that earth is a fragile, ephemeral material, while in reality some of the oldest extant buildings on the planet are made of earth.”
EARTH ARCHITECTURE — THE WEBSITE
“Dirt—as in clay, gravel, sand, silt, soil, loam, mud—is everywhere. The ground we walk on and grow crops in also just happens to be the most widely used building material on the planet. Civilizations throughout time have used it to create stable, warm, low-impact structures. The world’s first skyscrapers were built of mud brick. Paul Revere, Saddam Hussein, Chairman Mao, and Ronald Reagan all lived in earth houses at various points in their lives, and several of the buildings housing Donald Judd’s priceless collection in Marfa, Texas, are made of mud brick. The Earth Architecture website focuses on architecture constructed of mud brick (adobe), rammed earth (pisé), cob, compressed earth block or other methods of earthen construction and serves as a database for the discussion and dissemination of events, resources, and images of earth architecture in the context of contemporary architecture culture.”