US/China Workshop on Earth Based Materials and Sustainable Structures & Forum on Hakka Rammed Earth Buildings (Tulou)’ 2011

The West Virginia University Constructed Facilities Center, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA and Xiamen University Department of Civil Engineering, Xiamen, Fujian, China, in conjunction with the International Symposium on Innovation & Sustainability of Structures in Civil Engineering (ISISS’2011), is pleased to host the US/China Workshop on Earth Based Materials and Sustainable Structures & Forum on Hakka Rammed Earth Buildings (Tulou)’ 2011. The workshop will take place October 28 -30, 2011 at Xiamen University in Xiamen, China.

Thru the proposed workshop, the organizers would like to bring together researchers from the USA and China along with invited participants from Australia, Canada, Japan and UK to conduct a joint workshop at XMU on research potential of earth based materials and sustainable structures. The objectives of the proposed workshop will be: 1) to exchange success stories and lessons learned from the use of rammed earth as a structural material and construction technique for sustainable structures, including review of current rammed earth construction specifications and standards, 2) to address challenges and strategies for advancing the use of earth based structural materials in modern construction, 3) to establish a network of professionals to catalyze collaborative research, development and implementation including international partnerships, and 4) to develop joint R&D programs with emphasis on utilization of rammed earth material in modern construction by minimizing embodied energy. In addition, the workshop participants will have opportunity to witness the sustainability of World Heritage Hakka (ancient) village in-service and learn a few exemplary lessons potentially leading to modifications in contemporary construction techniques.

For more information on the worshop and forum events visit More information on the International Hakka Tulou Alliance (IHTA) can be found by visiting Additional information can be obtained by contacting the Workshop Organizer: Dr. Ruifeng (Ray) Liang,, (304) 293 9348

UPDATE: Nanjing Museum of Art & Architecture: NOT Black Rammed Earth

original project description from the website

UPDATE: while the website states that “The museum is formed by a “field” of parallel perspective spaces and garden walls in black rammed earth over which a light “figure” hovers”, unfortunately I have been informed by the Press Manager at Steven Holl architects that the walls are not black rammed earth, but bamboo formed concrete.

The new museum is sited at the gateway to the Contemporary International Practical Exhibition of Architecture in the lush green landscape of the Pearl Spring near Nanjing, China. The museum explores the shifting viewpoints, layers of space, expanses of mist and water, which characterize the deep alternating spatial mysteries of the composition of Chinese painting.

The museum is formed by a “field” of parallel perspective spaces and garden walls in black rammed earth over which a light “figure” hovers. The straight passages on the ground level gradually turn into the winding passage of the figure above. The upper gallery, suspended high in the air, unwraps in a clockwise turning sequence and culminates at “in-position” viewing of the city of Nanjing in the distance. This visual axis creates a linkage back to the great Ming Dynasty capital city. Learn more at the Steven Holl Architects website.

Kashgar: The End of a Mud Brick City

An old way of life is coming to a crashing end in north-western China with two-thirds of Kashgar’s Old City being bulldozed over the past few weeks under a government plan to “modernise” the area. Nine hundred families already have been moved from Kashgar’s Old City, “the best-preserved example of a traditional Islamic city to be found anywhere in central Asia,” as the architect and historian George Michell wrote in the 2008 book “Kashgar: Oasis City on China’s Old Silk Road.” Over the next few years, city officials say, they will demolish at least 85 percent of this warren of picturesque, if run-down homes and shops. Many of its 13,000 families, Muslims from a Turkic ethnic group called the Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs), will be moved.

Ancient Rammed Earth Observaory

Only recently rediscovered. An ancient site in the port of Qingdao has revealed the oldest known observatory in China. The Chinese Astronomy Society, learned of the finding at its annual convention. Experts point to historical evidence, that the Langya Observatory in east China’s Shandong Province, was built during the Warring States Period— more than 22-hundred years ago. The three-storey structure stands about nine meters. The original structure was made of rammed earth. The observatory was evidently erected as a site for studying the stars as well as for monitoring conditions at sea. [ Watch ]

Clan Homes in Fujian

Clan homes in Fujian by Jens Aaberg-Jørgensen, originally published in Danish in ARKITEKTEN no. 28, November 2000, pp. 2–9, is an exceptional resource of photos, drawings and documentation of the round, rammed earth miniature circular castles, constructed from the 11th to 20th centuries that are shared by entire clans; their circular shapes, single point of entry, and weapons portholes were designed to optimize defense. As we reported previously, the structures were recently protected by UNESCO.

Photo Credit

[ via Core 77 ]

Tolou added to UNESCO World Heritage List

Photo credit

Tulou, the unique rammed earth buildings of Fujian Province in southeastern China, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List on Sunday, during the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee. According to the submission provided by China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the Tulou buildings have been built since the 11th century. Designed to meet the requirements of a whole clan living together, they usually consist of a rammed earth outer wall and internal wooden framework, often of a circular configuration surrounding a central shrine.

The Earthen Homes of Yongding County

Photo by Barbara Koh/New York Times

From China’s Fujian coast, it’s a grinding drive up narrow roads through villages built around exhausted coal mines to reach the remote mountains of Yongding. Morning mist clings to the slopes of dense trees and brush. Below, in a valley, rests an eerie collection of beige cylindrical structures, one as enormous as a football field. This sci-fi scenery is peculiar to southern China and concentrated in Yongding County. The bizarre edifices, which the Chinese say foreign surveillance has, over the years, mistaken for missile silos and U.F.O.’s, are decades- and centuries-old and made of rammed earth. They are still homes to the Hakka, a Han Chinese nomadic group.