Friday, September 28, 2007

Mud Houses vs. Prefabs

My interest in mud houses is only about as old as this blog. But I was fascinated by the examples of mud- houses that I found, and writing about them was fun. Nadir Khalili's work was especially interesting: such a simple idea – sandbagging – added a lot to the ancient art of mud-building.

But I have one criticism of the modern experiments in mud-houses: they were building mainly one-room houses. Ok, in California, they were also building some extended combination of rooms to form bigger houses. But today's problems are mainly urban, and these small scale solutions are only suitable for rural situations.

In a sense, these efforts in furthering mud-house technology are not much different from the enthusiastic efforts to promote prefab houses, which are all the rage in the architectural blogosphere. The 5 tiniest prefabs featured by Inhabitat are really eye-catching! The problem here is that the prefabs only look good in beautifully landscaped acre lots, in isolated countrysides, or on deserted rooftops above the urban scene.

If mud-houses are to become more than just nostalgia for traditional architecture, we must develop the concepts for modern mud towns and communities. Many cultures, like the Hakka clan in China, have shown how; the grand example must be Shibam in Yemen.

Similarly, if the prefab houses are to become more than just a celebration of high tech minimalism, designers must show how these houses combine with others in dense urban situations to form neighbourhoods, towns and cities.

Xhosa Mud Hut




Mud House for Mars

Tiny Prefabs

Hakka “Tu Lou”

Shibam, Yemen

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