Bousillage Construction


The Gaudet House c. 1830, Lutcher, Louisiana

Bousillage, or bouzillage, a hybrid mud brick/cob/wattle and daub technique is a mixture of clay and Spanish moss or clay and grass that is used as a plaster to fill the spaces between structural framing and particularly found in French Vernacular architecture of Louisiana of the early 1700s. A series of wood bars (barreaux), set between the posts, helped to hold the plaster in place. Bousillage, molded into bricks, was also used as infilling between posts; then called briquette-entre-poteaux. The bousillage formed a solid mud wall that was plastered and then painted. The bousillage also formed a very effective insulation.


French Acadienne house in Lyon, France

The tradition was brought to New Orleans from France by the Acadienne (Cajun). The technique also has Naive American influences. This paper describes how “When the French built in Louisiana, their earliest houses (maison) were of this frame structure, but with the post in the ground (poteaux en terre). Sometimes the post were placed close together palisade fashion (cabane). This was a technique used by local Indians. The Indians infilled the cracks between the posts with a mixture of mud and retted Spanish moss. The French did likewise and called this mixture “bousillage”. The first framed structures were covered with horizontal cypress boards (madriers). The roof (couverture) frame was finished with cypress bark, shakes, boards, or palmetto thatch. All of these earliest structures had dirt floors and were usually only one room deep and two rooms wide separated by a fireplace.”

New Mexico Earth Workshops

Arches, Domes and Vaults

Arches, Domes and Vaults starts Monday, June 9. Anselmo Jaramillo (blog) instructs and leads construction of a 10- or 12-foot diameter adobe dome on a small adobe building to be built in Chimayo, NM, at Marisela’s. Dorm rooms available at the College in El Rito about 30 miles away. Camping in Anselmo’s fields a couple of miles from the worksite. Tuition costs about $150 for NM residents and $300 for non-residents. College admission, class registration, dorm arrangements through Donald Martinez, donmart@nnmc.edu, 505-581-4120 or call Quentin at 505-581-4156.

Natural Plaster and Floor Workshop

Natural Plaster and Floor Workshop takes place in LanderLand, Kingston, New Mexico June 28-29 with instruction on Earth Plaster, Lime Plaster, Earthen Floor and Natural Clay Paint(Aliz). Please come join then and learn the fundamentals of clay and lime for your natural home. Please check out http://www.LanderLand.com for more information. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Tom and Satomi Lander at 575-895-5029.

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.

Adobe Alliance Seeks Intern

The Adobe Alliance, a Texas based non-profit organization whose aims include to apply cooperative building techniques in earth architecture is seeking a resident intern to work in Santa Fe, New Mexico or from a distance. Responsibilities will include research, image scanning, simple bookkeeping, assisting with workshop organization, website maintenance, and telephone management. The ideal person is a graduate student in architecture, art/art history, public policy or related fields. To learn more, please contact Ms. Simone Swan at simoneswan@gmail.com or visit www.adobealliance.org

Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre

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Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre by Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden Architects was recently completed and featured in the April issue of Canadian Architect Magazine. The cultural center is constructed of the largest rammed earth wall in North America measuring 80 metres (262 feet) long by 5.5 metres (18 feet) high made of layers of colored stabilized soil.

Down and Dirty

The article Down and Dirty from the New York Times, discusses the growing populatiry of earthen floors. (subscription required)

Early one Saturday morning in January, Kevin Rowell dumped a bucket of dark mud on the floor of his big south-facing bedroom. It landed with a plop, spreading out and merging with a blanket of wet earth that already extended across much of the room. On his knees, Mr. Rowell took a trowel to the pile, nudging it this way and that until the mud was roughly level and about an inch and a half deep.