Mud Works! Hands-on Workshop on Earthen Structures (Summer 2019)

Contemporary innovations in the design and construction of buildings and environments predominantly follow a specific pattern: industrialized and imported materials are utilized to make high-tech products to exist in the midst of the vernacular world. However, many of these processes do not typically incorporate local traditions, microeconomies, or the potentials of nurturing vernacular know-how. The ethos of this workshop is built on the premise that building with natural materials maximizes the potentials of freely available resources and creates employment opportunities for members of a local community. As a result, investments in the built environment generate returns in both environmental and social capital. This is what we call architecture for development. We envision earthen architecture to be a viable alternative. An inherently sustainable material, earthen construction has a long history of sustaining homes and livelihoods in the most dramatic geographical, climatic, and economic conditions. However, the extant proverbial image of “mud hut” continues to challenge a wider perception of building with earth. Our explorations will explore both technical and aesthetic qualities of earthen construction. 

Our challenge is to evoke the archaic experience of human building and to capture a phenomenological diversity from this resource. Additionally, we will explore design and construction from the perspective of applied craftsmanship in both high-tech and low-tech conditions. The aim is to introduce students to the tremendous elastic range of earthen construction methods and familiarize students with material, technical, and participatory processes that this bottom-up form of design and development engenders. Students will collaborate in the design and construction of earthen building details, as well as learn schematic expressions with clay. Lectures and presentations led by Martin, Anna, and invited guests will complement the hands-on design workshop. The course will include one research and design assignment, which will be due upon arrival in Austria. The assignment will require written research as well as drawings or diagrams to document the speculative use of earthen structure in a specific historical building, to be selected from a predetermined list. Students will have the opportunity to revise the assignment, after the workshop, for final submission. 

Evaluation: Based upon participation and teamwork in the workshop as well as the depth of research and originality of the speculative project. 

This workshop took place during the summer of 2019. Enrollment in this course was preselected via lottery.