Revealing the Potential of Compressed Earth Blocks

Revealing the Potential of Compressed Earth Blocks—A Study in the Materiality of Compressed Earth Blocks (CEB): Lightness, Tactility, and Formability, by Egyptian architect Omar Rabie, documents explorations of the potential of CEB while studying at MIT, The Architectural Association and Auroville.

In these two experimental mock-ups, Rabie explored the different possibilities of bondings using one block—specifically how the shape of the single block influences the block bonding patterns in a stack bond and running bond.

This portion of a wall was built of specially formed interlocking blocks to increase friction to test how high friction masonry wall will highly resist lateral loads in comparison to walls constructed with standard blocks. In this case, the blocks are interlocked in the long direction of the wall. This experiment proved that it is possible to freely form more complex CEBs and build walls with an unusual bonds, like this strong zigzag bond.

[ Download Rabie’s entire report here. ]

The Mountain

The Mountain, a film written by Fathy Ghanem, tells the story of building the village of New Gourna by architect Hassan Fathy. Filmed in the village of New Gourna itself in 1965, it is incredibly important from an architectural perspective, however, Hassan Fathy never mentioned the film in any of his writings or speeches. More information at

Solar Sinter Project

In a world increasingly concerned with questions of energy production and raw material shortages, this project by Markus Kayser explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material occur in abundance.

In this experiment sunlight and sand are used as raw energy and material to produce glass objects using a 3D printing process, that combines natural energy and material with high-tech production technology. Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and triggers dreams of the full utilisation of the production potential of the world’s most efficient energy resource – the sun. Whilst not providing definitive answers, this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking.

Hassan Fathy is The Middle East’s Father of Sustainable Architecture

Green Prophet has railed against projects like Dubai Burj Tower. They have pounded our chests at the audacity of Masdar City’s “zero” footprint claim, and have decried the potential consequences of unsustainable approaches to building and planning. “USD22 billion” for a building project and “sustainable” simply don’t belong in the same sentence.

Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy died in 1989 but left behind a legacy of 160 building projects ranging from small projects to large-scale communities complete with mosques and schools. His impact can still be felt from Egypt to Greece and even New Mexico, where in 1981 he designed the Dar Ar-Salam community. Fathy received several awards for his work, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1980, and founded The International Institute for Appropriate Technology in 1977.

Egyptian Pigeon Houses

Pigeon houses at Mit Gahmr, Egypt

photo credit

photo credit

Pigeon is a part of the daily diet in many parts of Egypt and Pigeon houses, or dovecotes, are constructed from mud brick create an artificial mountainous topography. The droppings are also a valuable source of fertilizer and the houses are so ubiquitous that they are also part of the Egyptian national identity. The dovecote typology can be found throughout the world and Earth Architecture has previously featured the palomares of Spain.

Interestingly, the Egyptian pigeon houses remind one of the recent work of architect Vicente Guallart, who in his project The Re-Naturalization of Territory, attempts to create what could be considered as dovecotes for biotechnology and cinema in Tarragona, Spain.

Save the Heritage of Hassan Fathy

Save the Heritage of Hassan Fathy is an International Association based in Geneva (Switzerland), founded in February 2008 to safeguard the heritage of the Egyptian architect, Hassan Fathy.
His works constitute a patrimony of outstanding value which belongs to the cultural world heritage. The Association’s objectives are the following:

  • Raising the awareness of the public opinion about the importance of the work of the Egyptian architect
  • Providing a platform of exchanges between the concerned Institutions (public and private) and Universities
  • Promoting protection and conservation projects to safeguard this outstanding heritage

Shunet el-Zebib


photo: Institute of Fine Arts, N.Y.U./American Research Center in Egypt

Before the great pyramids, ancient Egyptian kings left less grandiose monuments to themselves: fortresslike sanctuaries enclosed by mud-brick walls. Inside these mortuary complexes, people presumably gathered to worship and perpetuate the memory of their departed ruler. The crumbling, almost vanished remains of such structures, archaeologists say, attest to the political hierarchy and religion of the newly unified Egyptian state, beginning more than 5,000 years ago.

[ NY Times article | audio slide show ]

Qurna Residents are Displaced Again

Bulldozers have moved in to demolish houses in the Egyptian village of Qurna (Gourna) which sits on top of dozens of pharaonic tombs in Luxor. The Egyptian government is determined to move the 3,200 families of the village to an alternative settlement it has built a few kilometres away. In 1945 the Egyptian government displaced the entire city to a New Gourna designed by the architect Hassan Fathy. “All of the architect’s best intentions, however, were no match for the avariciousness of the Gournis themselves, who took every opportunity possible to sabotage their new village in order to stay where they were and to continue their own crude but lucrative version of amateur archaeology.” Today New Gourna is almost abandoned and all what remains today of New Gourna is the mosque, market and a couple of houses. Perhaps history will repeat itself and the residents of Qurna will resist forced displacement. However if destruction of the village continues, an important history will be lost. [ images of New Gourna | Qurna ]