Tulou Chinese Architecture

I received an email from Professor Sunny Cai, who teaches architectural design at a college in Beijing , China. He mentioned his interest in ancient Chinese architecture, especially the earthen buildings called “tulou,” and he sent me some pictures of these rammed earth buildings. I had never seen anything quite like them, so I queried him further about how they were made and used. He replied, “The foundation was built with rocks, 2 feet high all around. The juice of glutinous rice and some lime is mixed into the earth for strength, and then sliced bamboo, reeds, and sometimes pieces of wood are also used.”

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Recovering America

The late Malcolm Wells was a writer, artist and architect who was a vocal advocate of underground building since the early 70’s, having written nearly twenty books on the topic. He wrote in a humorous, personal, eloquent and inspiring style. His books are completely written by hand in pen and ink, and are liberally illustrated … Read more

A 3D Printed House for $4000?

There has been a lot of publicity about 3D printed housing lately, and it is not surprising because the notion seems almost unbelievable. What is not to like about being able to almost instantaneously  convert practically any plan into reality for very little money? This article from fastcompany.com describes such housing that is being developed for masses of poor people in El Salvador and other third world countries. They claim that this can be done for under $4000 per house!

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The Beauty of Mud and Straw

What could be more basic to life on Earth than mud and straw? The dirt beneath your feet brings forth grasses that become straw. When you combine these two elements with loving care you can create an enduring beauty that will thrill your soul, and a home that will embrace and protect you. We have been experiencing a renaissance in the use of natural materials for building throughout the U. S.

To make an earthen floor you need to add about 25% of finely screened clay to 75% sharp sand or crusher fines, with enough water to make something the consistency of a thick cake batter. Once this is thoroughly mixed, then several handfuls of chopped straw (several inches long) can be mixed in to help bind the material together and give the final floor some beautiful flecks of gold if desired.

This wet mixture is poured over a prepared base of thoroughly tamped road base (gravel and sand). The layer of adobe can be as thin as about ¬ĺ inch, but usually it is more like about 2 inches. The first stage of pouring an adobe floor is similar to pouring concrete, where the wet material is roughly screed to get it uniformly level. With concrete, however, you must do all of the finish work within a few hours, before it sets up. With adobe the curing and finishing process can go on for weeks, or even months.

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