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Earth Architecture
Ronald Rael

ISBN 9781568987675
Publication date 12/1/2008
8.5 x 9 inches (21.6 x 22.9 cm), Hardcover
208 pages, 222 color illustrations, 96 b/w illustrations
Rights: World; Carton qty: 12; (-32.32)

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This book is also available in a Paperback edition

Dirt---as in clay, gravel, sand, silt, soil, loam, mud---is everywhere and it's free. The ground we walk on and grow crops in also just happens to be the most widely used building material on the planet. Civilizations throughout time have used it to create stable, warm, low-impact structures. The world's first skyscrapers were built of mud brick. Paul Revere, Chairman Mao, and Ronald Reagan all lived in earth houses at various points in their lives, and several of the buildings housing Donald Judd's priceless collection at the Judd Foundation in Marfa, Texas, are made of mud brick.

Currently it is estimated that one half of the world's population--approximately three billion people on six continents--lives or works in buildings constructed of earth. And while the vast legacy of traditional and vernacular earthen construction has been widely discussed, little attention has been paid to the contemporary tradition of earth architecture. Author Ronald Rael, founder of provides a history of building with earth in the modern era, focusing particularly on projects constructed in the last few decades that use rammed earth, mud brick, compressed earth, cob, and several other interesting techniques. Earth Architecture presents a selection of more than 40 projects that exemplify new, creative uses of the oldest building material on the planet.

Rael's engaging narrative addresses the misconceptions associated with earth architecture. Many assume that it's only used for housing in poor rural areas--but there are examples of airports, embassies, hospitals, museums, and factories that are made of earth. It's also assumed that earth is a fragile, ephemeral material, while in reality some of the oldest extant buildings on the planet are made of earth. Rael also touches on many topics that pervade both architecture and popular media today, such as the ecological benefits and the politics of building with earth, particularly in developing nations where earth buildings are often thought of as pre-modern or backward. With engaging discussion and more than 300 images, Earth Architecture showcases the beauty and simplicity of one of humankind's most evolved and sophisticated building technologies.

Ronald Rael is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at The University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining the faculty at Berkeley, he was he is the Co-Director of the The Charles E. Daniel Center for Building Research and Urban Studies in Genova, Italy for 1.5 years and the coordinator of the Core Architecture Studios at Clemson University. During this time he was also a visiting member of the Design Faculty at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles and began his academic career as a Senior Instructor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Ronald earned his Masters of Architecture degree at Columbia University in the City of New York where he was the recipient of the William Kinne Memorial Fellowship. He holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Editorial Reviews

Azure Magazine:
"Earth Architecture compellingly underscores the need for us to rethink how we can build sustainably by using old techniques in new ways." — Nova Tayona

The Midwest Book Review:
"The worlds first skyscrapers were built of mud brick and many famous Americans lived in earth houses at different points in their lives: this said, there have been few books on the contemporary architecture of earth houses, making Earth Architecture a real winner for any college-level arts collection. It surveys over forty projects and profiles the beauty of earth architecture, offering chapters covering new, creative uses of earth in buildings." — Diane C. Donovan

Green Muze:
"With more than 40 different building projects from around the world, Earth Architecture provides a history of building with earth in a modern era, focusing on projects using rammed earth, mud brick, compressed earth, cob and other techniques that are becoming increasingly important with changing ecological and economic imperatives. Earth Architecture showcases new and innovative uses of the oldest building material on the planet.The Chapel of Reconciliation in Berlin, Germany and The Chapel of Rest in Voralberg, Austria were recently constructed from rammed earth. The National Wine Center in Adelaide, South Australia contains the largest rammed earth wall in the Southern Hemisphere. The $4,000 a night Amankora Bhutan Resort in Gangtey, Bhutan, has rammed earth walls and the NkMp Dessert Interpretive Center in Osoyoos, Canada has the largest rammed earth wall (363 feet long 18 feet tall and 24 inches thick) in North America.Earth Architecture also contains a wide range of modern earthen residences from the simple to the stunningly opulent. A beautiful book for earth-based building enthusiasts."

Houses Magazine:
"Dirt - that most ancient of building materials - is experiencing a popular resurgence... One of the worlds oldest building products has now become one of the worlds most advanced sustainable building materials. The earth houses within are as aesthetically pleasing as they are ecologically sound."

Architectural Record:
"From an introduction tracing the history of earth architecure to an afterword adressing hybrid building systems and the digital process of contour crafting, Rael offers a balanced reconsideration of earth architectures central issues and 40 of its most interesting built representations." — T.A. Horton

The Age, Melbourne:
"Earth Architecture charts a grand history of architectural beauty crafted from one of the humblest of building materials. "

Down-to-earth architecture, The Globe and Mail:
"The results catalogued here are serviceable and often handsome. The dwellings in the refugee camp, designed by the Iranian-born American architect Nader Khalili, are attractive beehive-shaped huts created by coiling the long bags of dirt into ever-smaller circles, and anchoring them in place with layers of barbed wire. Using Mr. Khalili's system, anyone can build a hut quickly without special training or specialized materials." — John Bently Mays blog:
"...contains a wide range of modern earthen residences from the simple to the stunningly opulent. A beautiful book for earth-based building enthusiasts."

"Most houses Mr. Rael illustrates have been destined for less drastic circumstances than a war-zone, and the earthen parts of them play an intentionally aesthetic role. In a modernistic Australian residence, for instance, the architects established a long, flat front faade composed of compacted tan earth and contrasting cedar panels stained dark brown. The visual result is rich and resonant: Dirt, we find here, can be beautiful.More interesting, however, are the houses that embody knowledge of earth construction beyond the merely aesthetic. Tucson architect Rick Joy had in mind the multistorey structures put up by the ancient peoples of the American Southwest - imposing earthworks that seem of a piece with the desert - when, in 1998, he created a dramatic house design in his home town....Like the other projects Mr. Rael has presented, it is a lesson in how one of the world's oldest and most popular building processes can be renewed in a high-tech age, lending its ancient beauty to architectural works of contemporary imagination." — John Bentley Mays

Mud Slinging , Achitects Newspaper:
"...a satisfying survey both for the professional "mudder" and for those who want a quick scholarly survey of earthen buildings from all over."
"A Must Have!"

A Daily Dose of :
"...brings to the fore earth architecture and its positive impact on architectural important addition to any architect's library for its important subject matter and the quality of projects included."

Building Design:
"I would recommend Ronald Raels book to all those people who are interested in this alternative means to architecture, existing since 10,000 years BC.....Ronald writes in simple, descriptive prose, each project is traced in a way that creates an anthology and motivates the reader to further study and research. The book is rich in content and draws in other authors, architects, historical buildings and periods. click HERE to read the full review on Building Design Online" — Valentina Del Fuoco of Afterhours Studio

A Weekly Dose of Architecture, Archidose:
"Architectural publishers seem to produce an infinite stream of books collecting contemporary buildings, typically grouped by building types, such as the ever-popular single-family houses but also office buildings, hotels, retail spaces, housing, and cultural facilities, among others. That these categorizations of architecture take precedence over the means of construction employed by architects in their design points to the ongoing importance of typology in architectural design, but also to a gap in architectural theory, stemming from a lack of creativity in building construction. This doesn't apply to the overly expensive buildings of Frank Gehry or others whose engineered designs preclude anything but the most innovative approaches to building. This applies to the other 99.9%, where considerations of construction technique are more limited, or only apprently so. Ronald Rael's book on some common techniques of construction, ones not typically seen as contemporary, brings to the fore earth architecture and its positive impact on architectural design. Click HERE to read the entire review on"

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