29 julho 2013

‘Butabu: Adobe Architecture of West Africa’_James Morris

For centuries, complex and intricate adobe structures, have been built in the Sahal region of western Africa, including the countries of Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. Made of earth mixed with water, these ephemeral buildings display a remarkable diversity of form, human ingenuity, and originality.
In a fascinating book, published in 2003, titled ‘Butabu: Adobe Architecture of West Africa’, and co-authored by British photographer James Morris and Harvard professor Suzanne Preston Blier, a stunning visual array of these structures is displayed.

In his Preface to the book, Morris writes:
“Too often, when people in the West think of African architecture, they perceive nothing more than a mud hut —a primitive vernacular remembered from an old Tarzan movie. Why this ignorance to the richness of West African buildings? Possibly it is because the great dynastic civilizations of the region were already in decline when the European colonizers first exposed these cultures to the West. Being built of mud, many older buildings had already been lost, unlike the stone or brick buildings of other ancient cultures. Or possibly this lack of awareness is because the buildings are just too strange, too foreign to have been easily appreciated by outsiders. Often they more closely resemble huge monolithic sculptures or ceramic pots than “architecture” as we think of it. But in fact these buildings are neither “historic monuments” in the classic sense, nor as culturally remote as they may initially appear. They share many qualities—such as sustainability, sculptural beauty, and community participation in their conception—now valued in Western architectural thinking. Though part of long traditions and ancient cultures, they are at the same time contemporary structures serving a current purpose.
The mud from which these buildings are made is itself a controversial substance that tests our conventional views of architecture. It is one of the most commonly used building materials in the world, and yet in our urban-dominated society it is seen, effectively, as dirt. Buildings subtly alter in appearance each time they are re-rendered, which can be as often as once a year. Yet the maintaining and resurfacing of buildings is part of the rhythm of life; there is an ongoing and active participation in their continuing existence. If they lost their relevance and were neglected, they would collapse. This is not a museum culture…”
In this review of the book from The Guardian Newspaper, journalist Jonathan Glancey writes:
“What these magnificent mosques prove is that mud buildings can be far more sophisticated than many people living in a world of concrete and steel might want to believe. Mud is not just a material for shaping pots, but for temples, palaces and even, as so many west African towns demonstrate, the framing of entire communities. The very fluidity, or viscosity, of the material allows the architects who use it to create dynamic and sensual forms.
Morris’s photographic trips through the region in 1999 and 2000 record a world of architecture that, sadly, is increasingly under threat. Perhaps it is mostly poverty rather than culture and memory that keeps this rich and inventive tradition of building alive…”
This book is a treasure trove of imagery and information to any architecture enthusiast.  Critical elements like space, light, and texture are explored in intimate detail, revealing a strong argument for this kind of architecture to be studied, documented, and profiled more wildly.   As Morris sums up his preface: “I am still curious why West Africa’s adobe buildings receive so little serious consideration. If architecture is a cultural expression, perhaps it is the culture from which these buildings have evolved, so alien to the European mind, that keeps it in the academic wilderness, hard for the commentators to place.
Photographs and Preface published courtesy of James Morris.

Rammed Earth Contractors' Workshop 2013_BC_AS_Belgium

Rammed Earth Contractors' Workshop 2013

From 23rd of september to 4th of october, Bc studies is organizing a Rammed Earth workshop for contractors in East-Flanders, Belgium, with techniques learned at Martin Rauch and Craterre.
In this workshop, 4 walls will be built, of which some load-bearing. Earth from the site will be tested and reformulated through the addition of sand and gravel, and rammed into a concrete formwork. The walls are conform the German Lehmbau-norms, and the soon to be French Atex-norms.
Rammed Earth walls are beneficial for the indoor climate of buildings, due to their thermal inertia while still being damp open and water resistant.
The workshop aims at delivering knowledge transfer and capacity-building in Belgium or Europe in contemporary Rammed Earth techniques, with earth from the site, and is specifically directed towards contractors, providing information on machinery, supply chain, soil testing, mixing technique, ramming technique, finishing, rainwater-management, ...
For more information (and the brochure), please contact 

Interested contractors should be officially registered in Europe, and communicate their interest before 20th of august.

Grand Mosque of Mopti_Mali

The Grand Mosque of Mopti (or Komoguel Mosque), in Mali, was built under French supervision from 1936 - 1943 on the site of a former mosque from 1908.
Inspired by the style of the Great Mosque of Djenne, this fine example of Sudano-Sahelian Architecture is unique in its strong vertical and symmetrical elements. 
This impressive structure has been added to the Unesco World Heritage List and is designated a National Monument by the Malian Government.

© Photo: El-Len

18 julho 2013

Tschudi Palace_Ciudadela Chan-Chan

Earthen detail at Tschudi Palace, one of the nine earthen palaces of the Ciudadela Chan-Chan Chimu empire, constructed in the fifteenth century. 
© Photo: Claudia Cancino, GCI

Earthen Construction Symposium: Durham 2013

Earthen Construction Symposium: Durham 2013
On July 2nd Durham University hosted a day long event for researchers, architects and engineers to present current academic research and discuss the direction of earthen construction research within the UK and across Europe. The symposium opened with a keynote address by the Chair of Earth Building UK, Dr Paul Jaquin, contained two workshops discussing the future of research into earthen construction research and had six presentations covering a wide range of topics. The symposium organisers would like to thank all who presented and attended for their invaluable contributions to the day and look forward to hearing more about their earthen construction research in the future.
To download a full symposium report click here.
To download the presentation slides please click on the relevant presentation below.
The impact of contamination on soils used in earthen construction: Marta Zurakowska (University of the West of Scotland)

It is hoped that the Earthen Construction Symposium will return to Durham in 2014 and will then become an annual event that can be hosted by different institutions across Europe.

16 julho 2013

Exemplo_Jiaohe Citadel_China

Buddhist stupa at Jiaohe Ruins

Jiaohe, China
Jiaohe or Yarkhoto is a ruined city in the Yarnaz Valley, 10 km west of the city of Turpan in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. 
It was the capital of the Tocharian kingdom of Jushi. It is a natural fortress located atop a steep cliff on a leaf-shaped plateau between two deep river valleys, and was an important stop along the Silk Road.
The rammed earth ruins of Jiaohe ancient citadel, protected the Jiaohe area at the time of the Tang Dynasty (seventh to tenth century).
This military structure was gradually abandoned after the Yuan Dynasty, in the fourteenth century silently remaining as a memory.
Both the Nara National Cultural Properties Research Institute and the Xinjiang Cultural Relics Bureau have been cooperating in a joint venture to preserve the ruins of the site since 1992. In 2014, the Jiaohe Ruins became part of the Silk Road UNESCO World Heritage Sites, after several years of preparation.

Construction d'un mur en pisé_Confignon_Genève_Ar-Ter

Construction d'un mur en pisé_Confignon_Genève_Ar-Ter
A Genève, l’argile est utilisée dans la construction des murs dès l’époque néolithique ; elle est présente à toutes les époques successives et mise en œuvre de différentes manières. La technique du pisé (terre argileuse comprimée par couches successives entre deux coffrages) est attestée localement au XVIIIe siècle. A Confignon même, certaines parties de constructions rurales, bâties selon ce mode, subsistent encore.
Cette technique est présente dans toutes les régions où l’argile est abondante et la pierre rare : par exemple certaines parties du Plateau suisse, l’Ain, le Lyonnais, le Dauphiné et le Vorarlberg d’où vient précisément le constructeur artisan Martin Rauch qui a bâti ce mur.
Le projet a voulu remettre en évidence cette technique ancestrale renouvelée. Cette expérience participe aux tendances d’un développement plus durable (utilisation des matériaux et des ressources locales). Tout autant que ses qualités pratiques, c’est le caractère symbolique qui s’exprime par le choix de la terre, matériau fondamental, naturel et local.
Le mur est bâti avec de la terre prise sur place et des agrégats traités par les moyens modernes de construction. La terre est prélevée en sous couche (à plus de 60 cm de profondeur) afin d’atteindre une composition plus argileuse de la moraine du coteau. Elle est mise en place par couches successives (env. 20 cm) dans des banches permettant un damage mécanique à chaque couche. La partie supérieure (cadette) est traitée en métal pour éviter l’érosion.
Ce mur en pisé réalisé en 2008 remplace un élément du mur d’enceinte de la mairie qui s’était éfondré. Ce nouvel exemple nous montre un mur pisé en extérieur et non-enduit. Il est le fruit d’une collaboration entre le bureau d’architecture genevois Barthassa-Menoud et le constructeur autrichien Martin Rauch. 
Entre les couches de terre sont intercallées des couches de chaux afin de limiter l’érosion du mur par ruissellement. Ces couches ont aussi un effet esthétique en accentuant la perception de la pente. Le haut du mur est protégé par un élément en corten qui empèche la dégradation de la terre par infiltration d’eau de pluie et joue ainsi le rôle du «chapeau».

11 julho 2013

20 anos_Atelier taipa Alexandre Bastos_Odemira

Comemoram-se por estes dias os 20 anos (1993) da construção em taipa do atelier de pintura e gravura do Arq. Alexandre Bastos, em Odemira. 
Esta importante obra arquitectónica em taipa, de referência em Portugal, resultou numa viragem na imagem e perspectiva de futuro que em 1993 se tinha da construção com terra crua, "uma feliz combinação de artes e técnicas tradicionais com algumas inovações designadamente no projecto". 

Técnica construtiva ancestral em Portugal e espalhada por quase todo o Alentejo e Algarve, a taipa conhece actualmente um aprofundamento técnico suportado por diversos exemplos construídos, conhecimento científico do material terra e uma dimensão exemplar como modelo sustentável.
No entanto outras características nos aproximam da terra como a sua liberdade, a possibilidade de a modificar sem condicionantes para as gerações vindouras, o seu enorme potencial enquanto material eterno, aproveitando este mesmo material, acessível debaixo dos nossos pés, a custo zero, fazendo-o renascer... e ainda a força arquitectónica de construir com ele o efémero e o contemporâneo.
Partilhamos desta ideia, reforçada já também pelo Arq. Alexandre Bastos, da enorme liberdade e mobilidade, plenas de sonho e construção física, do domínio da utopia e da obra, potenciais e presentes nas tecnologias de construção em terra crua como a taipa.
Deste modo nada melhor, para recordar o importante momento de renovação e redescoberta da taipa em 1993, do que reler dois artigos publicados no Notícias de Odemira, o primeiro pelo Dr Martins Quaresma, e o segundo pelo Arq. Alexandre Bastos.

04 julho 2013


_Campus do Monte da Caparica_ Universidade Nova de Lisboa

A terra como material de construção tem vindo a ser utilizada desde que há registos. 

Na arquitectura vernacular foi muito utilizada na execução de argamassas nomeadamente para assentamento de alvenarias e rebocos. 
Embora a sua utilização tenha praticamente desaparecido durante algum tempo, o interesse pelas argamassas de terra reapareceu com a necessidade de tornar a construção mais sustentável, com vista a possibilitar intervenções de conservação e reabilitação mais adequadas e eficientes e ainda para que a saúde dos utilizadores dos edifícios não seja comprometida. Em muitos países do mundo, e em grande parte dos países mais desenvolvidos da Europa, as argamassas de terra são correntemente formuladas, comercializadas e aplicadas. Felizmente em  Portugal este tema começa a prender o interesse por parte dos diversos agentes do sector da construção civil.  
As argamassas e os rebocos de terra apresentam particularidades que não são do conhecimento comum. Pela sua especificidade, no Seminário e no Curso de Especialização vai procurar-se aprofundar os seus diferentes aspectos. Este encontro de especialistas, investigadores, técnicos, construtores e empresários, da construção e ligados à indústria das argamassas e da cerâmica de barro vermelho, tem por objectivos motivar a utilização, desenvolvimento e inserção de novos produtos no mercado e demonstrar que é possível reconverter os meios disponíveis para a criação e aplicação de materiais construtivos inovadores / vernaculares e sustentáveis. 
Ver programa aqui

03 julho 2013

Exemplo_House Gulm_Austria_Aicher Ziviltechniker GmbH

© Photos: Norman Müller

House Gulm, Vorarlberg, Austria Rammed Earth | Taipa
Location: Vorarlberg, AustriaYear: 2010
Architects: Aicher Ziviltechniker GmbH
Area: 235 m²

For more information about the project visit here.

Exemplo_Earth Hunting Cabin_Belgium_BC-AS Architects

© Photos & drawings BC-AS Architects

Rammed Earth Hunting Cabin_Belgium_BC-AS Architects
Last year (2012), BC Architects organized Belgium’s first rammed earth workshop to build a small but comfortable hunting cabin from about 30 square meters of rammed earth. The foundation and roof work was completed by the architects, while workshop participants created the rammed earth walls. The resulting Maison de Chasse (a house for hunters) has a natural, organic color that blends in with the surrounding forest. The modest structure contains a chimney, a place for wood storage, and large windows that look out on the forest. “The texture of the rammed earth walls gives it a natural look, and the very existence of this building, proves that the triangle between architect-contractor-client can be modified to implement a more horizontal approach to construction,” the architects explain.
Original text by Wesley Degreef here.