The transition of material production
Each location has its own unique soil type which is reflected by the landscape topography, vegetation, climate and in the past by the local architecture.
Us-moderns, we have replaced building with local raw resources, reuse and bricolage with blind faith in technology. Over the years the production of local, site-specific raw materials on a regional scale has been supplanted by the production of universal processed materials on a global scale. We mine natural resources and turn them into processed matter. What has been formed by nature over millions of years we managed to destroy and disbalance in less than 100 years.
To re-establish the harmony between the built and the natural environment, we need to erase the strong distinction that we have created between those two, starting from the way we are using local natural resources.
Earthworks are about bringing back the culture of building naturally.
In my project, I propose preservation and gradual reuse of a former cement factory (ENCI Maastricht) for raw material production based on the local raw resource of Limburg- loam. I was fascinated with the old craft of building with raw earth from that region, the craft that has almost completely disappeared, yet is an extremely sustainable mode of constructing with the potential of infinite reuse.
In comparison to cement, raw earth production does not require heavy processing - only the right composition of soil grains, sometimes fibres, water and time for drying - to obtain high-quality construction. Since it is not treated with any additives, the earthen material can be reused an infinite amount of times after dismantling or it can just simply crumble apart, at the end of the building’s lifetime, without leaving traces on the environment.
Currently, the obstacles which make it difficult to reimplement this way of constructing are lack of people who would be skilled to build in this way, lack of regulations supporting this way of constructing, missing knowledge of us architects who would design with it, but even more important - lack of familiarity and trust from the public to this mode of constructing.
Implementation of Earthworks- four new constructions made with raw earth, on the site of ENCI Maastricht is the first phase of the transition of the material production. It focuses on developing and collecting knowledge about raw earth construction and material production and its introduction to the public. A transition in the way we build will never happen without a change in mindset. Public experience and acceptance are crucial for this transition to happen.
Constructed with 4 different raw earth techniques, Earthworks narrate the story of the material, its strengths and vulnerabilities, and invites the visitor to truly experience the atmosphere and tactility of building with raw earth by himself. Earthworks are also about relearning a pre-modern attitude towards the built environment; an attitude of acting with caution and care, where maintenance and reuse of materials are normal, where material erosion and decay are accepted, and where we relearn to construct simpler and humbler in order to truly sustain.
Earth as a building material has no lobby therefore, I hope that my graduation project will help to bring more recognizability and appreciation for this modest way of constructing.
Graduation date: 23 August 2021
Graduation committee: Uri Gilad (mentor), Hannah Schubert, Dingeman Deijs
Additional members for the exam: Marlies Boterman, Machiel Spaan