11 Glorious Rammed-Earth Homes That Celebrate the Landscape

These resilient, rammed-earth homes show the soil’s true stripes.
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A true expression of the landscape they rest on, rammed-earth homes are constructed of compacted soil molded in plywood forms. A robust and energy-efficient material, rammed earth also has a striking, striated appearance, taking on natural color variations. The residences below demonstrate how the impressive building technique has been adapted to environments all over the world.

A Sustainable Rammed-Earth Home in New Mexico

In the harsh climate of New Mexico, Studio eM Design created a rammed-earth home in Corrales, New Mexico, that updates the regional adobe archetype.

Asked to find an ecologically sustainable building solution, architecture firm blaanc turned to a vernacular building technique that still thrives in certain pockets of rural Portugal: rammed-earth construction.

Architect Hank Louis worked with Navajo tribe elders to secure a 66-year lease on a half-acre lot in the middle of Bluf, Utah, for Rosie Joe and her children. The facade of their off-the-grid house is made up of exposed wood, red rammed earth, and glass.

David Easton, a pioneer in the field of rammed-earth construction, developed sturdy blocks made from recycled and waste material and then used them to build a house for himself and his wife, Cynthia Wright, in collaboration with designer Juliet Hsu.

"We originally proposed using concrete for the walls because we like the plain style and directness," the owners say. Instead of concrete, Smith 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.

The Dancing Light residence in Paradise Valley, Arizona has a roof with a commanding line against the desert sky and walls made of varying tones of rammed earth.

"A well-performing house extension facing south on a small inner-city block built in rammed earth is not easy to achieve," says architect Steffen Welsch. "However, in this challenge was our opportunity: We decided that our extension will curl around to capture the sun, creating a communal courtyard and allowing the occupants to look at their own house rather than a paling fence."

Rammed earth, concrete, galvanized steel, oiled plywood, and anodized aluminum were used for the interiors at this house by Australian architect and builder Paul O'Reilly.

The natural palette and integration of outdoor living rooms blend the house into the desert landscape. In addition to rammed earth, integral color-synthetic stucco was used for the exterior walls. A dramatic roof overhang with Douglas Fir soffits and rammed earth walls frame the entrance. 

Set in a valley in Wanaka, New Zealand, the home of winemaker Nigel Greening was conceived as a series of "tubes" that disappear at one end into the sloped landscape. Architect Andrew Simpson of WireDog Architecture worked with Dunlop Builders to create the 3,390-square-foot house, which features rammed-earth walls both inside and out, a reflection of the owner’s connection to the soil. The kitchen features a mix of rammed-earth walls, strandboard-and-bamboo cabinets, and stainless steel counters. The appliances are by Fisher & Paykel, the faucet is by Plumbline, and the pendants are by Bruck.

The two buildings are entirely made of renewable resources, which is best exemplified by its 30-inch-thick walls made of rammed earth. The first building serves as DiDomenico's residence, while the second is a 7,000-square-foot open space for her to create her artwork.

Learn more about the use of rammed earth in our podcast, Raw Materials 3 Ways: Dirt.


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