For some time, architectural modernization has been assessed through materials and technology. Steel, glass and concrete allowed buildings around the world to conform to an aspect that could place a structure anywhere in the world. In a globalized and mechanized environment, where machines make everything possible, the work of the hand and the building blocks it can create are often overlooked. But environments are different, lifestyles are varied, and different regions have different needs. Unique climates, special economic concerns, access to natural resources and energy, and complex cultural traditions determine the most optimal way of life.
By examining vernacular architecture through the perspective of culture, tradition and climate, we can see that modern technology and new materials are not always the solution. Earth and clay, and the bricks these materials become, show their importance in areas where harsh climates may require more porous and ventilated structures, or where traditional labor and skills may come from the land. community, creating jobs and circular economies. The natural materials sourced as closely as possible to the projects they serve give an identity to a building that speaks of where it comes from. It shows where it belongs and how it could possibly exist anywhere else in the same way.
Secular and religious complex Hikma
In Dandaji, a village in the arid west of Niger, Mariam Kamara of Atelier Masōmī and Yasaman Esmaili of Studio Chahar transformed an abandoned mosque into a library that shares its site with a new village mosque. They called on the expertise of traditional masons from the original mosque to renovate the old building, in return imparting knowledge to these skilled workers about adobe-enhancing additives and erosion protection techniques.
Most of the material came from within a three-mile radius of the property, and concrete was limited to structural elements such as columns and lintels. The main building material was Compressed Earth Bricks (CEB), made from lateritic earth found at the site. These CEBs resulted in a structure that requires less maintenance than adobe, but still retains similar thermal advantages. The resulting natural ventilation that emerges from the material has eliminated any need for mechanical cooling, making it a comfortable place for the community to come together and learn, even in the heat of the day.
Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide’s studio is a three-story tessellated brick tower on a 7 x 14 m site designed by Mauricio Rocha and Gabriela Carrillo de Taller de Arquitectura in Mexico City. The repetitive and rhythmic masonry encloses a central space with open-air patios on either side, providing natural ventilation, while the uniformity of the horizontal and vertical masonry patterns is another decisive check against the Mexican sun. The light emerges and retracts in a way that keeps the interior temperatures just right, while simultaneously texturing the home with shadows.
Such contemporary use of traditional materials allows even the modern library to blend in with the large clay volume of the punctuated brick walls. It’s a space designed to offer a sense of silence and an experience of continuity, say the architects. “An ethereal volume which disappears with light and shadow… which ceases to be… so that the strong atmosphere – transmitted by this woman we admire – can live there and be reinforced.
Casa de Marbel
Hundreds of families, left homeless after the devastating earthquakes in Mexico in 2017, received financial support from the country’s national disaster fund to rebuild their homes. Many preferred to design and build them themselves so they could spend more on materials. Such a situation, without the help of professionals, would jeopardize the quality of their housing.
Architect Tatiana Bilbao was among the various architects who undertook a participatory design process with some residents, ensuring an adequate exchange of knowledge on technical needs and possibilities so that the results are appropriate for the communities concerned.
Casa de Marbel was one such house in the State of Mexico. The 86m2 property, surrounded by flowering trees with which the family makes wreaths to generate income, had to respect its natural environment and resources. At the same time, he had to be connected to the house next door, where relatives reside.
This was managed by the construction of three small volumes joined by platforms surrounding a central patio. The selected areas are ventilated by trellises made from compact earth bricks produced as a “machimbloque”, a cost-effective construction method in the area.
Long a house
A residence in Vietnam’s Long An province was designed by local architecture studio Tropical Space in a trapezoidal shape that integrates two floors around a central courtyard and reflective pool. IInspired by traditional Vietnamese houses, the structure includes three separate spaces and a sloping roof, and spans various functional areas that are divided by intensities of light and shadow rather than dividing walls.
Hollow clay bricks in the front yard absorb rain and reduce heat from the ground at the entrance, while interior ventilation has been maximized by dividing the roof into two sections and installing a long hallway to connect the two sides and all intermediate areas. The open design and porous patterned brick walls welcome air into the home. Climate control is further enhanced by a smart layout that takes advantage of the direction of the wind during the different seasons of the year.
This article originally appeared in TLmag34: Precious: A Geology of Being