In the House of Earth + Light, designed by Marwan Al-Sayed, 18-inch-wide poured earth walls contrast sharply with the lightweight triple fabric roof. A ventilated glass and steel bridge spans the structure and is anchored by the monolithic earthen walls forming the two main volumes on opposite sides of the wash. The poured earth volumes incorporate the study (shown here), kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
In this Palo Alto, California, home designed by CCS Architecture, the residence consists of two main masses: a rammed earth base made from soil excavated from the site and a long ipe-clad wooden box that cantilevers over the ground floor. "We originally proposed using concrete for the walls because we like the plain style and directness," the owners say. Instead of concrete, the architect suggested rammed earth, a material that combines some of the physical properties of concrete, but is less "psychologically cold." The 16-inch-thick walls' thermal mass helps to insulate the interior from heat in the summer and cold in the winter.
In the July/August 2013 issue of Dwell, we profiled Studio eM Design’s rammed-earth home in Corrales, New Mexico, which updates the regional adobe archetype into a hallmark of sustainable design.
From an ecological perspective, pneumatically impacted stabilized earth (PISE) is a nearly perfect building material. A residence halfway between Carmel and Big Sur, near California’s central coast, showcases PISE’s residential potential.
This home addition in the Pyrénées is not made of rammed earth, but it is rammed under the earth. In deference to the rural surrounds, the Toulouse–based firm Puig Pujol & Associés Architectures extracted a portion of the hillside adjoining the original house and slipped in a glass, steel, and concrete structure underneath. “A topographic feature of the utmost discretion,” says firm principal Jean-Manuel Puig of the stealthy design that barely peeks from under a blanket of grass.
Another undercover earth house is architect Byoung Soo Cho’s residence, quite possibly one of the classiest dugouts ever built. Set amid peaceful woods and rice fields an hour east of Seoul, Korea, the subterranean structure consists of six tiny unadorned rooms (kitchen, library, two bedrooms, and a bathroom) and a 23-by-23-foot courtyard.
Architect David Hertz has transported this idea of an ecological village to Venice, California, where he lives in a compound—four dwellings connected by bridges and clustered around a courtyard lap pool. On the right, the original house’s rammed-earth entry wall frames its concrete layers.
Nader Khalili’s lunar-inspired “superadobe” homes are suitable virtually anywhere on earth. In emergency situations, they can be erected in a matter of days. They are made from layers of sandbags set in a circular plan, with a strand of four-point barbed wire between each level to provide stability, and corbeled at the top into a dome-shaped roof.