RM-3 Episode Five: Clams

RM-3 Episode Five: Clams

By Dwell
RM-3 (Raw Materials 3 Ways) returns to investigate the surprising role clams, oysters, and their kin have played in how and what we build.

From ancient marine sediment compacted and pressurized over the ages to form limestone, to oyster middens—heaps of discarded shells—used to create a paste for mortar, to the stone ground to make cement-board siding, mollusks are on the menu in many of our buildings.

On this episode of RM-3, host Dan Maginn takes a deep dive into the role of shellfish in our shelters. 

Tune in to the full episode below, and keep scrolling to see the projects we talk about on the show.

Geographer Richard Campanella is a senior professor of practice with the Tulane School of Architecture. In RM-3: Clams 3 Ways, Campanella reveals how shellfish formed the backbone on indigenous communities in the New Orleans region.

Oyster middens—huge heaps of discarded shells—like this one in New Jersey have been a rich building resource in U.S. history, providing raw material for making mortar.

Steve Raike, Lake Flato Architects

Limestone, a sedimentary rock composed of ancient marine organisms, plays a large role in the work of South Texas–based firm Lake Flato Architects. At the new addition at Witte Museum in San Antonio, limestone "imparts a great sense of civic presence and permanence," says architect Steve Raike.

The Olmos Park Residence sits in an established neighborhood in San Antonio. Heavy limestone walls screen neighbors on both sides, while the fourth side opens up to a verdant flood basin.

"We had these incredible live oak trees, and so we built the house around the trees and the view," says Raike.

Throughout the day, light animates the limestone walls to various effects. "As the sun rotates around and is more oblique to the texture of the stone, it casts these wonderful shadows on it," says Raike. "And you just get a real appreciation for the texture of the stone and the richness of the colors in it."

Emilie Taylor Welty, The Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design

Emilie Taylor Welty leads New Orleans–based architecture firm Colectivo. The Dorgenois residence is clad in smooth, blue Hardie boards and gray Hardie lap siding. The humble, hardy fiber-cement boards are made from cement sand (i.e. ground-up limestone) and wood pulp. 

URBANbuild 7, clad in fiber-cement boards, is a Tulane School of Architecture student project.

RM-3 is produced by Jenny Xie, produced and edited by Laura Spencer, and hosted by Dan Maginn. Our theme music is by Slag Ralden. Special thanks to Rich Campanella, Steve Raike, and Emilie Taylor Welty for being on the show; to Alexander Adams, Mara Lazer, and Anthony Cave; and to Aaron Williams and the rest of his compadres at the Blind Pelican in New Orleans.

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