Review: The Art of Earth Architecture: Past, Present, Future

Jean Dethier reveals some of the raw earth masterpieces scattered across five continents.

The Art of Earth Architecture: Past, Present, Future

by Jean Dethier
Thames & Hudson

Mankind has built palaces, temples, forts and cities with raw (unbaked) earth for almost 10,000 years. The various types of raw earth construction (including adobe and rammed earth, cob, wattle and daub) require neither industrial transformation nor high-energy consumption and do not produce CO2. Combining archaeology and history, culture and technology, The Art of Earth Architecture is part cultural revelation and part ecological manifesto, proposing an alternative to current construction methods and a substitute for cement and concrete. Surveyed are 450 raw earth masterpieces and many UNESCO World Heritage sites from 75 countries. Included are the temples and palaces of Mesopotamia and Egypt, the Great Wall of China and the Alhambra in Spain, as well as historical cities such as Shibam in Yemen, Djenné in Mali and Marrakesh. Also featured is contemporary work of pioneers such as Cointeraux, Fathy, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Heringer, Rauch and Kéré, as well as Pritzker Prize laureates Wang Shu, Foster and Piano. Their eco-avant-garde achievements span luxury villas, social housing and public buildings. These inspiring works are now fuelling a cultural, ethical and ecological low-tech revolution. The book concludes with essays which argue that raw earth construction can help fight against climate deregulation. Hence, it’s a must-read.