A new film, ‘The Farmer, the Architect and the Scientist’ tells the story of a seed hero. Dr Debal Deb is a pioneering ecologist committed to working with traditional farmers in eastern India to conserve indigenous seed diversity. Over almost two decades, Debal has managed to save 920 varieties of rice, all of which he stores in community based seed banks in West Bengal and Odisha for farmers. This film follows the construction of a new seed bank premises in Odisha, a venture that provides a potent symbol of Debal’s values.
Using concrete and mud bricks, architects Solanito Benítez, Gloria Cabral, María Rovea y Ricardo Sargiotti have constructed a unique wall by hastening the erosion of the mud by washing it away once the concrete mortar had cured, leaving voids in the places where mud bricks were set.
Australian rap star Iggy Azalea grew up in a house that her father built by hand from mud bricks, surrounded by 5 hectares of land. She reminisces about it in her song Work:
You can hate it or love it
Hustle and the struggle is the only thing I’m trusting
Thorough bread in a mud brick before the budget
White chick on that Pac shit
My passion was ironic
And my dreams were uncommon
Built in an Afghan Refugee Camp in Kerman, Iran, the 100 meter square meter domed shelter is comprised of approximately 6,000 mud bricks.
Pouya Khazaeli, principal of Rai Studio and architecture professor at Azad University, Tehran and Ghazvin, notes: “Social sustainability in design is our main focus area here. It means to study how these refugees live, communicate, the meaning of privacy in their live, which materials they prefer and use for construction, which kind of construction techniques they use themselves, how much they spend normally to construct their own shelters….”
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 www.hassanfathy.webs.com
Adobe for Women is a non-profit association, founded in 2011, whose goal is the recovery and education of earth construction techniques; this is our contribution to a more human and sustainable use of space and the planet’s resources. The goal of this Project is to build 20 sustainable houses in the indigenous village of San Juan Mixtepec, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.
The houses are intended for 20 women in difficult circumstances who will participate in the building process. They will slowly appropriate their future home and simultaneously re find their self esteem, work abilities and hope that will transform the spaces into safe, caring places for their families.
The houses are energy efficient and built with local materials such as adobe and bamboo.
After weeks of enduring the ash brought on by Chile’s Puyehue volcano, one Argentine woman has decided to transform the grey sediment into something useful. Maria Irma Mansilla used the sediment and sand spewed by the volcano to create bricks. She hopes she and her neighbours will be able to produce them on a large scale to build homes for the poor. Watch
The new Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Islamic Studies and Research, completed in 2009, introduces state-of-the-art techniques for conserving, exhibiting, and studying these famous Timbuktu manuscripts. dhk Architects of Cape Town designed phase one of the $8.36 million, 50,000-square-foot Institute, creating an archive of 20,000 manuscripts and a public library with reference materials on the culture of the region.
Andre Spies, the project architect for dhk, designed the institute and now heads his own practice in Cape Town called twothink architecture, which completed phase two — fitting out the interiors. To respect the vernacular architecture of the region, Spies chose to build primarily with mud, which requires maintenance after the annual rains. He found a local mason who mixed mud with concrete to make the facade rain-repellent, and he purchased mud bricks from craftsmen on the streets.
The introduction of a new building is challenging in the low-tech, mud-built setting of Timbuktu. Albakaye Ousmane Kounta, the Malian writer, poet, and storyteller, criticizes the building as “too modern.” Whereas fortresslike walls concealed the internal configuration of the former institute, the new one blurs inside and out with outdoor hallways arrayed along a “free plan.” This modern approach is uncommon in West Africa, where public and private spaces are strictly demarcated to keep out sand, roving donkeys, and itinerant people. The new design encourages access and openness, but it has drawbacks as well. In addition, some spaces — such as the auditorium — have rigid functions not easily adapted to other uses.