The transition of material production
The introduction of cement production in Maastricht in 1926 marks the moment when the unique raw resource of the Limburg’s landscape (mergel) became a generic, processed, non-renewable building material. Over 94 years The Eerste Nederlandse Cement Industrie Maastricht grew into a large-scale processing plant and vast quarry dedicated to cement production. While cement manufacturing served a national interest in the context of post-war reconstruction and the factory was one of the largest employers in Maastricht, it came at expense of the natural environment and the quality of life among local residents.
In August 2020 cement production in Maastricht finally came to an end; leaving almost 40 hectares of the unique industrial ensemble vacant and at risk of being erased.
As a response to the factory closure, we need to act immediately to ensure the preservation of its heritage, but also to seek new, local material supply to fill the void left by the departed industry. If cement production was fulfilling the needs of post-war reconstruction, what sort of material production corresponds to the needs of today? Can we find a way to produce building materials without depleting natural resources?
Earthworks stands for the total preservation of the industrial ensemble, taking care of all the buildings and the materials it is composed of, so they can await their moment of reuse. For the future of material production, Earthworks draws inspiration from the forgotten craft of building with raw earth (loam). In this craft, the local resource was used in its raw form and resource extraction, material production, and construction were not harmful to the environment. The raw earth construction at the end of its lifetime could have simply crumbled apart without leaving traces on the landscape.
How can we introduce a new material production based on the craft that disappeared long ago in a world that hasn't stood still? How do we regain skilled workers, supporting regulations, and knowledge about material among architects, and more importantly; how do we ensure that this way of building, nowadays seen as a primitive, will regain appreciation and trust from the public?
The implementation of Earthworks (four new constructions made with raw earth) on the site of ENCI Maastricht is the first step in the transition of material production. Earthworks make the forgotten craft visible again, tell about the origin and beauty of the material, its strong and vulnerable properties and invite the public to experience the atmosphere and tactility of raw earth through physical contact. Earthworks offer space for experimentation, education and development of the craft, setting up knowledge for the transition of the manufacturing profile of the factory: from cement to loam.
Earthworks teaches us a premodern approach to the built environment; an attitude of acting with caution, where maintenance of the building is seen as an act of care, reuse is obvious and material decay is accepted. Earthworks allows us to slow down, gives us time to fathom materials, gives the loam opportunity to harden in the open air, encourages us to produce less with a greater sense of responsibility for materials from our earth.
Graduation date: 23 August 2021
Graduation committee: Uri Gilad (mentor), Hannah Schubert, Dingeman Deijs
Additional members for the exam: Marlies Boterman, Machiel Spaan