4th International Alvar Aalto Meeting on Modern Architecture 2011 Jyvaskyla, Finland
presented and included in refereed proceedings
Highrise Shuffle Conference
Midrise Mud    Authors: Armstrong, Claude;  Cohen, Donna 
ISBN 978-9-5254-9824-0
abstract: RARE EARTH: Mid-Rise Mud
Can mud buildings emerge as mid-rise mediators between low-density urban fabric and true towers? Can we use parametric modeling tools to shape mud, an ancient and elemental building material, into a high performing building elements for new towers that connect earth to sky? 
 The tall mud structures, in Djenne, Mali, and the walled city of Shibam, Yemen, are the ancestors of the new responsive mud tower.  Relatively tall earthen structures have been built for centuries to resist lateral loads and other non-compressive stresses, not merely by mass. Rather than the normative Western paradigm, can alternative towers, shaped by new technology yet constructed with earth, answer the call for a “friendly” “softer” tower?The development of earth towers is promising for contemporary programs in cultural heritage sites, particularly in the developing world. Interventions into historic urban contexts can demand density but also material compatibility.  Earthen architecture may be entering a new phase with the application of material studies that recombine previously “unalloyed” substances in novel ways. Rapid virtual testing allows reconfiguration of new material into forms at micro and macro scales. A fibrous, granular, and cohesive earthen-based structural material, with new understanding of its behavior, can be formed into sensuous, three-dimensional, and human-scaled buildings.This paper presents our proposal for a midrise earthen tower for an historic city in North Africa, and discusses current developments in the design of earth towers, including a variety of earthen and baked bricks and structural ceramics being designed today for the towers of the future.

download paper: Rare Earth