Building with Earth Workshop in Ethiopia

PhD Candidate Lara Davis of the Professorship of Architecture and Construction Dirk E. Hebel at SEC/FCL Singapore held this seven day intensive workshop to introduce students of architecture and urbanism and local technical-vocational (TVET) trainees to the concepts and practical aspects of building with earth with contextual sensitivity in Ethiopia.  For each day of the workshop, one half-day was devoted to field study and practical exercises, which allowed students to develop hands-on material-based knowledge.  Afternoon lectures provided the conceptual framing for theoretical study, documentation, and reflection.

The topics covered attempted to demonstrate the link between the fundamental properties of soil, its effective use as a building material, and strategies for context and climate-responsive design in earthen masonry.  Lectures and practical sessions addressed:  sampling and selection of soils in the field, properties and behavior of soil, empirical methods of soil testing and modification, chikka plastering and adobe block production, techniques and design principles of earthen masonry, mechanical properties of earthen masonry (compression, shrinkage and shear), construction of arches and vaults, applied structural principles, and climate-responsive detailing for weather and site conditions.  Beyond the various activities, students constructed a single curved earthen vault with the Nubian vaulting technique.  The workshop was concluded with student presentations.