In recent years, India has seen a resurgence of interest in natural building materials, a movement driven by escalating environmental concerns and a growing desire to revive traditional lifestyles. From the busy streets of Mumbai to the serene villages of Kerala, architects, builders, and communities are coming together to experiment with the potential of earth, bamboo, lime, and other organic materials in shaping contextually relevant structures that also embody India's contemporary ideals. The shift towards using natural materials and other vernacular resources reflects a movement towards sustainability and a deeper connection with nature.
Rammed Earth: The Latest Architecture and News
In a time marked by environmental challenges and a growing demand for authenticity and cultural diversity, architects are increasingly turning to indigenous knowledge systems not only as sources of inspiration, but as viable solutions to adapt and respond to local and global challenges. As traditional custodians of the land, indigenous communities posses a profound understanding of their ecosystems, locally-available materials, cultural norms and social constrains. This knowledge holds insights valuable for shaping contemporary architecture, helping it adapt to both the people and their environments.
Vernacular and indigenous practices are emerging as a foundation for architectural reimagining, informing spatial lays, the choice of materials and building techniques while also allowing for the integration of innovation and contemporary expression. This careful blend of tradition and modernity can have a significant impact in terms of sustainability, as architects who adopt the indigenous approach to harnessing available resources can not only create structures rooted in their context, but also minimize the ecological impact of the construction. Additionally, collaborating directly with indigenous communities leads to projects that prioritize community participation, cultural sensitivity and sustainable development.
As we understand it today, the sustainable architecture movement began to take shape at the end of the 20th century. Essentially, it responds to growing concerns about environmental degradation, energy consumption, and resource scarcity. In this global discourse on sustainable architecture, wood has long been celebrated as a symbol of environmental consciousness and decarbonization. As one of the most widespread building materials, it has gained popularity with the rise of this movement. This is because trees absorb carbon dioxide during their growth, which stays in the wood during its construction use, keeping it out of the atmosphere.
In the south of Burkina Faso, sharing borders with the northern environs of Ghana is Tiébélé; a small village exhibiting fractal patterns of circular and rectangular buildings, housing one of the oldest ethnic groups in West Africa; the Kassena tribe. With vernacular houses dating back to the 15th century, the village’s buildings strike a distinctive character through its symbol-laden painted walls. It is an architecture of wall decoration where the community uses their building envelope as a canvas for geometric shapes and symbols of local folklore, expressing the culture’s history and unique heritage. This architecture is the product of a unique form of communal collaboration, where all men and women in the community are tasked with contributing to the construction and finishing of any new house. This practice serves as a transmission point for Kassena culture across generations.
Earth architecture is built on a far-reaching history. Its story continues to be told through aged structures that have stood the test of time. Across the world, indigenous earth construction techniques have been pioneered by many ancient civilizations. Communities originally built shelters from earth - the most readily available material to them - and have passed on their construction techniques through generations. Earth architecture evolved with a careful understanding of land and location. With practices perfected decades ago, it is fascinating to see earth architecture remaining resilient through adversities
In the current scenario of a climate crisis, thinking about an architectural project without defining ecological guidelines has become practically unacceptable. One of the main emitters of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, the construction sector is increasingly looking for new ways and means that can make works more sustainable and, in some way, mitigate damage to the environment. Thinking about ecological materials can be one of the fundamental steps, but, which materials are these?
Over the course of the last decade there has been a growing interest in the handcrafted buildings, as well as in the application of local and renewable materials in building construction. Under the concerns about the heavy environmental and economic expenses caused by construction, nowadays urban planners are embracing the concept of sustainability, which refers to “meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Construction of Moroccan Pavilion at the 2020 Dubai is Underway with Tribute to Traditional Construction
The Moroccan Pavilion at the 2020 Expo in Dubai explores traditional Moroccan architecture and how it can be reimagined in contemporary construction techniques and urban developments. The pavilion is designed by architects OUALALOU+CHOI, and will display a first-of-its-kind structure with a 4000 m² rammed earth facade, pushing the boundaries of the material and exploring its full potential.
Vladimir Belogolovsky speaks with American architect Rick Joy about his early inclinations towards architecture, what kind of architecture he likes to visit, and about designing his buildings as instruments.
Ancestral, but overshadowed by other technologies that have emerged over time, the rammed-earth walls are again gaining prominence in Brazil for being a low-impact, sustainable and economical solution. Known in Portuguese as taipa, it is a rudimentary construction system that compresses the earth into wooden boxes until it reaches an ideal density that allows a resistant and long-lasting structure.
Local Collective has designed a seating made of clay for the London Festival of Architecture and Network Rail. Unveiled at London Bridge Station, the urban furniture is a result of a “competition organized by the LFA and Network Rail to create public installations that celebrate London’s shared spaces and connect people with playful encounters”.