Earth Architecture and Wine

Many wineries and residences among vineyards employ earth in the construction of buildings. Often, the same earth to grow grapes is ideal for use as a building material.

National Wine Centre

Vineyard Residence

Residence at Meteor Vineyards

Bodega en Los Robles

Margan Tasting Room and Restaurant

The list goes on and on: [ Fetzer Winery Administration Building | Moorooduc Estate | Texas Hills Vineyard | Adinfern Estate | Wing Canyon Vineyard | Home Hill Winery ]

Historic Adobes of Los Angeles County

The book, Historic Adobes of Los Angeles County, documents the numerous eighteenth and nineteenth century adobe houses that are still standing in the metropolitan Los Angeles County area. An accompanying website offers insight to the books content, with an annotated table of contents that summarizes each section of the book and includes maps that allow for your own tour the 76 extant historic adobe structures in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.

Node 1 and Contour Crafting

“Node 1” is a conceptual architecture project by French Architect François Roche which lacks most of the usual architectural accoutrements: blueprints, material suppliers, subcontractors. Instead, Roche imagines a programmable assembly device dubbed the “viab,” a construction robot capable of improvising as it assembles walls, ducts, cables, and pipes. A viab would produce structures that are not set and specific, but impermanent and malleable – merely viable – made of a uniform, recyclable substance like adobe.

The closest thing to a viab today is a modest mud-working robot, called “contour crafter”, invented by Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor of engineering at the University of Southern California. Two years ago, California-based architect Greg Lynn was talking to Khoshnevis about the same topic. [ 1 | 2 | 3 ]

Robot May Build with Mud

In a laboratory in Los Angeles early this year, a robot armed with a concrete pump built its first wall. Just a small wall, about a yard wide, a foot high and an inch thick, but beautifully formed in a graceful oval sweep. Iranian born engineer Behrokh Khoshnevis has tested his prototype with cement but believes adobe, a mix of mud and straw that is dried by the Sun, could be suitable. The chief advantages of the Contour Crafting process over existing technologies are the superior surface finish that is realized and the greatly enhanced speed of fabrication. The success of the technology stems from the automated use of age-old tools normally wielded by hand, combined with conventional robotics and an innovative approach to building three-dimensional objects that allows rapid fabrication times. Professor Khoshnevis believes that his technology will make it possible to build a house from foundation to roof in less than 24 hours: “Our goal,” he says, “is to be able to completely construct a one-storey 185-square-metre home on site in one day, without using human hands.”

Juana Briones Historic House


Juana Briones was known as a healer who raised a big family, opened her door to many in need and persevered to win a divorce from an abusive husband — something unheard of in the early 1800s. In 1844 she bought the 4,400-acre Rancho La Purisima Concepcion and lived there until not too long before her death in 1889. What Briones advocates have been trying to do for several years now is preserve the part of the house that’s built of a very unusual construction called encajonado, an old rammed-earth technique that exists in only three other houses in California. On the Juana Briones Heritage Foundation Website, the house is described as Palo Alto’s oldest, with a construction date of 1846. In May a judge is expected to issue a decision that will make the difference between a house repaired and a house demolished.

Rare Earth: The Weir Brothers

This article is published with the permission of the author, Thomas Shess, who is a San Diego based free-lance writer, who has been specializing in period homes from Adobe to Post Modern for more than 30 years. The article will appear in the March 2004 issue of San Diego By Design.

A Fifties-Era Adobe Redo in La Mesa

Southern California’s romance with red-tiled Spanish influenced architecture shows no sign of ebbing. Sharp eyed aficionados can drive any local residential street and see variation upon variation of this warm and comfortable style whether it is Mission, Monterrey, Rancho Hacienda, or Pueblo Revival. This month’s featured home in La Mesa is a fine example of Adobe construction, one of the rarer Spanish revival themes around.

When Ad/PR execs Rob Akins and Mark Berry purchased their 1957 custom adobe home in the foothills of La Mesa, the home was a diamond in the rough waiting to be given new life. The owners named their home Casa dos Palmas after the two towering palms in the back yard and set out to accentuate the warm, rustic charm of the place, with its generous rooms, multiple fireplaces, high beamed ceilings and panoramic views, by infusing an international look with contemporary furnishings, extensive art and custom lighting.

“The house was classic Weir Brothers design – soaring open beams of solid cedar, 16″ thick walls of adobe and artisan fireplaces. It was also dark, dated and with little connection to the outdoors,” said Akins. “We wanted to create a home that was an extension of the outdoors.” Removing the original 50’s patio doors and windows, the owners installed custom wood French doors and windows with bronze hardware. Simple Sautillo tile replaced dated shag carpeting, while sisal carpeting went into bedrooms and hallways. Graphic designer Berry designed the back yard with a dramatic pool, terrace, deck and outdoor dining pavilion (featured in San Diego Magazine June, 2000 issue) that takes in the 280? view of the eastern mountains. Abundant landscaping creates privacy as well as providing color to the mini-compound.

Brothers Jack and Larry Weir worked together after WWII to the 1960’s building adobe homes in Escondido, Pala, Fallbrook, Pauma Valley and La Mesa. After the war when building materials were scarce, Jack Weir built a home out of “dirt cheap” adobe bricks for his then young family. When some post war house hunter offered Jack $15,000 for that first home a thriving custom home building business using mud bricks was founded and flourished into the 1960s.
Casa dos Palmas like other thick-walled adobe structures provides an environment that is cool in the summer and warm in the winter. While adobe remains an economical building material recent adobe construction in the U.S. has seen better days. Reason is modern seismic building codes have blunted adobe construction for most of the past half century.

Recently, Akins and Berry purchased a small farm in Sonoma County, moved into their condo on Balboa Park and sold Casa dos Palmas to architect Jim Tanner and wife Annemarie Eckhardt, who split their time between San Diego and San Francisco. Tanner is partners in TannerHecht [cq]Architecture, the designers of several high profile projects in San Diego including ICON at the former Reincarnation building. As fate would have it, Tanner and business partner David Hecht have started designing Akins and Berry’s Sonoma home which features a newly planted olive grove as its focal point. Splitting their time between San Diego and Sonoma County, now Akins and Berry have the best of both worlds – a Town & Country lifestyle that suits them just fine.