Modern Concrete Grew from Traditional Rammed Earth

In the book Concrete: The Vision of a New Architecture Peter Collins describes how the origins of modern concrete evolved from technological developments pertaining directly to the traditional use of rammed earth in France. He writes:

“…when concrete did again come into use as a building material, it evolved from an entirely independent, and much more humble origin: pisé [rammed earth]. The peculiarity of pisé construction thus lay not only in the economy of using earth as a building material, but in the process whereby a building was moulded into shape, and it was inevitable that sooner or later some far-sighted individuals should appreciate the revolutionary possibilities of this method of construction, and seek to extend it by improving on the material used. The most obvious improvement was to increase the cohesion of the earth by mixing in a binding material such as mortar, and this had in fact already been done by [Jean-Baptiste] Rondelet when repairing the château in Ain. It was left to others to experiment with suitable hard aggregates, and produce modern concrete, or, as it was termed in French, béton. The first of the pioneers was an ingenious but ambitions building labourer named François Cointeraux.” – Peter Collins, Concrete: The Vision of a New Architecture (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004), 20-21.

The Future of Mud: A Tale of Houses and Lives in Djenne

The Future of Mud: A Tale of Houses and Lives in Djenne, a new film by Susan Vogel and presented by the Musée National du Mali, is the story of Komusa, master mason and heir to the secrets of Djenne architecture. He hopes his son will continue the family profession and maintain their world heritage city – but Djenne is connected to a global world now, and competing ideas about the future have arrived. Documentary footage and staged scenes tell an intimate story of family tensions, contemporary building practices, and the precarious future of the renowned mud architecture of Mali.

Treehugger writes of the film:

A “collective connection to earthen architecture is best seen in the film’s footage of the annual re-plastering of the town’s pride, the Great Mosque, which is the world’s largest earth building, in addition to being a distinguished UNESCO World Heritage site. The first earthen structure here on this site dates back to the 13th century and is re-plastered every year. The day-long, annual festival is truly a communal affair, with plenty of foreign tourists gawking on and filming the orderly chaos.”

photo of the Great Mosque of Djenne by Ferdinand Reus

The Future of Mud: A Tale of Houses and Lives in Djenne
Co-Produced with Trevor Marchand and Samuel Sidibé.
Edited by Harry Kafka. Music by Issa Bagayogo. In Bamana, French, English with English subtitles. Color, 58 minutes. Distributed by Available fall 2007.


AKTerre is a French construction company specializing in rammed earth construction that promotes the ecological, historic and aesthetic qualities of earth construction.

Earth Construction: A Comprehensive Guide

Earth Construction: A Comprehensive Guide, written by Hugo Houben and Hubert Guillard, is a comprehensive, illustrated handbook deals with the world’s oldest and most widespread building material. This book assembles, orders and clarifies information about building with earth which has up till now been available only in scattered form. Text supported by illustrations deals with the essential aspects of earth construction, taking one step at a time–decision-making, planning, design and the realization of a project–so that the procedures, benefits and precautions are easily accessible and understood by those involved at every level. The accumulated knowledge and experience of centuries of use are presented alongside current technologies and research findings. There is a chapter devoted to disaster-resistant construction techniques, and extensive bibliographies throughout for those who require more details about a particular subject area.

L’Architecture De Terre Au Maroc

L’Architecture De Terre Au Maroc is a beautiful book about Morocco that focuses on the beauty of Morocco’s earthen architecture. It also tells the story of the technique, shapes and decorations which comprise this sublime architecture. The book contains texts by architect Elie Mouyal, Professor Hubert Guillaud, a specialist in the field earth and the images of Michel Lebrun.