Earth-based walls stand among the most ancient and timeless building materials, and are enjoying a renewed sense of popularity because of their green properties.
Rammed earth homes are created with walls formed through the application of high pressure applied to compact damp earth sourced from the homesite. Aside from being eco-friendly, these walls are attractively patterned and energy efficient—as their high thermal mass enables them to absorb heat in the day and release it at night, thus reducing the cost of heating and cooling.
Some of the world’s most beautifully, classically constructed buildings are culled from rammed earth. These include:
The Observation Tower in Belgium, designed by De Gouden Liniaal Architecten, is an observation tower in the Maasvalley Riverpark nature reserve; the first public building in Benelux to be culled from rammed earth. This tower, which affords a generous view of the Negenoord landscape, consists of local earth, clay and gravel excavated from the Maas area.
The Sparrenburg Visitor Center, a project of Max Dudler Architects, is a newly built rammed earth building that puts a contemporary angle on a historical castle site. This single-story structure houses a welcome centre and gift shop.
The Off-Grid Casa Caldera, a shelter located in the Canelo Hills in Southern Arizona’s San Rafael Valley, is part and parcel of its host landscape. DUST Architects designed the 945-square-foot off-grid building, whose rammed earth structure seems one with the forestry surrounding. Formed from poured lava crete, this building lives in harmony with its landscape.
Also merging beautifully with its woodland surroundings is a Monterrey, Mexico, residence designed by Tatiana Bilbao. Los Terrenos boasts a main room overlooking a canopy of trees. The bedrooms were constructed underground. This rammed earth home is at one with nature.
The Jalisco Summer House, also the work of Tatiana Bilbao Architects, is an angular structure culled from rammed earth walls that match the mountains beyond in terms of their earthy hue. Situated on Chapala Lake in Jalisco, Mexico, the cubic house affords bountiful views while protecting the inside from northern winds. The rammed earth in this structure is drawn from its surroundings.
The Great Wall of Western Australia is a multi-family structure that lives up to its name, with Luigi Rosselli Architects designing the longest wall made from rammed earth in Western Australia. The 230-meter-long wall runs across the border of a sand dune, containing a dozen residences also topped with earth. The apartments, providing short-term housing for cattle workers, includes a 450-mm-thick rammed earth facade and living space that is part and parcel of the dune. The design renders the housing nice and cool in the hot weather. The rammed earth and related clay and gravel wall materials were sourced in the region.
The Environmentally Friend Herb Centre is a geometrically formed warehouse, built from rammed earth. An herb centre designed by Herzog & de Meuron for the Ricola company, the building materials were sourced directly from the area surrounding Laufen, Switzerland. The building’s loam walls can be found on both the interior and the exterior. The rammed earth façade is attached to the warehouse’s loadbearing concrete structure.
The Vineyard House in Portugal is also deeply reflective of its surroundings, near Montijo, Portugal. The Blaanc Architects designed a rammed earth structure featuring the usual common living areas and a lengthy terrace. The earth walls render this structure energy efficient and acoustically shielded. The locally sourced, sand-laden rammed earth walls are a definite highlight of this beautiful design.