Earth Houses for Gaza Homeless

Gaza’s scars have been frozen in place since Israel waged war a year ago to subdue Hamas and stop rockets from hitting its towns. Entire neighborhoods still lie in rubble, and traumatized residents can’t rebuild their lives. A three-year-old blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt makes any large-scale rebuilding impossible, because the embargo includes steel and concrete. As we reported previously, the Israeli siege has led ingenious Palestinians to build homes with mud brick. Furthermore, soil excavated from tunnels used to smuggle goods from Egypt has been used in the manufacture of mud bricks.

Now the United Nations is constructing compressed earth block homes to assist with the homelessness caused by the destruction and the siege. The first phase of the project calls for the construction of 120 homes at a cost of 12,000 to 15,000 dollars (8,000 to 10,000 euros) each with funding from Kuwait and the Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates. The agency is training workers to make the mud bricks at its headquarters and hopes to provide dozens of jobs in the territory where more than 80 percent of the population relies on foreign aid.

The houses are made of local materials in an ancient technique, compressed mud bricks, wooden window frames and a domed roof that does not require steel. The main U.N. aid agency has ordered 120 such Arabesque-style homes with graceful arches as shelters for the displaced.

A School that Bridges Between Tolou Castles

The Tolou clan homes in the Fujian Province are large, circular rammed earth mini-castles constructed from the 11th to 20th centuries. Architect Li Xiaodong has completed a school in Fujian, China, which forms a bridge over a creek between two castles.

While the bridge is not constructed of earth, it represents work that literally bridges between the languages of non-industrial and industrial societies and the relationships between earth buildings and industrial materials.

The bridge/school is constructed of steel, wood and concrete and the material palette compliments the stone and rammed earth clan houses. The transparency of the bridge’s cladding is also in contrast to the impenetrable fortress clan houses.

A ‘Model City’

drdharchitects’ proposal for the Shenzhen and Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism Architecture seeks to address the individual and collective lives of the inhabitants, and future inhabitants, of the World’s big cities. This seems of particular relevance given the extraordinary and rapid growth of Chinese cities like Shenzhen, as the country goes through a dramatic process of urbanisation. With the help of local school children from Shenzhen they proposed the creation of a miniature city, made of clay.

They wanted to engage local school children in imagining their own city. The process started by asking them to think about their home, through building a collection of miniature clay houses. drdharchitects asked them a series of questions such as where an entrance or window might be; how these played a part in defining the overall appearance of their buildings and how it might speak to its neighbours. It concluded by asking them to consider the individual house as part of the collective city, how it might be laid out, its patterns and the relationships between things.