Post 426 – by Gautam Shah 


9 Koyama_3

Architecture and structures of mud or clay, for every conceivable purpose, exist in all parts of the world. In hilly regions of the world clay sediments have been used for packing the joint and as a masonry course leveller. Mud or clay is used because of the abundant supply, near zero cost of procurement, wet plasticity, mould-ability, insulating qualities, high thermal capacity, non toxicity, ecological friendly nature and simplicity of application. Mud as a forming material for architecture, structures or ceramics have some drawbacks like, shrinkages on drying, i.e., cracking, poor weathering qualities, lack of homogeneity in dry state, high water permeability -hygroscopic, poor bonding to a substrate -peel off, vulnerability to white ants and insects.


Mud has seen renewed interest during the last Six to Seven decades. First interest in architecture was for its abundance and simplistic technology. Later, the material was favoured for its insulative qualities. During the last 4o years the mud buildings are being favoured for their Eco-friendliness, chiefly the recycle-ability aspect of it. The ideology of sustainability, with its varied interpretations, has supported experimentation for different uses.

2 Wattle_and_daub_construction

8 Berber village Near Ait Benhaddou 5600152155_532c99cc67_z

Some basic techniques of Mud construction are identified. These are: Sod, Rammed earth, Cob (cobb or clom), Adobe, Wattle and daub Compressed earth block methods. These techniques differ in details, from region to region, type of soils, natural moisture content and availability of additional water, additives, reinforcements and support form-work within reach. The mix design and forming techniques also depend on building elements (wall, slab, etc.), architectural elements and surface finish or applique decorations.

11 st_stephens_church_at_acoma_pueblo1

Mud architecture presents fascinating forms. The quality of space formation, the suitability for range of basic architectonic elements, adaptability to different usages, and the universal availability, make mud a very coveted material. The love affair is very poignant during the academic period of designers. The passion, however, gets muted over the years, for variety of reasons, such as lack of the clientele, the place, scope and sponsorship for experimentation and the irrelevance of the technology at locations where the educated designer will operate. There are many other reasons for a failed take off for ‘low technology and eco-friendly’ endeavours. Mud, is reckoned to be a sustainable material, of very relevant (‘green’) technology, non toxic, universally available and completely recyclable material.


1 House_in_Toteil_002

These concepts remain valid so far as one can use the mud architecture concurrently with matching ‘lifestyle’ if one is conducting. A personal habitat of mud and to maintain (sustain) it for a long period, are two different things. A mud building is a very fragile entity and needs day to day care. Such concerns cannot be assigned to any outsider or agency. The cost of daily upkeep can turn out to be very high. And even if one can afford the cost, (which could be equal to the cost of a new structure), takes lots of time, practically a full time vocation.

7 Siwa mud Homes2009

Mud built-form cannot be conceived as a drawn plan or scheme. A person who constructs it must improvise it on own. The execution of such form cannot happen quickly, and during the period whatever that has been constructed will need updating and improvisation. Some of the key elements of built form, material behaviour, form and space organization exist in the society that has been using mud for generations. These innate capacities can be reinforced by being not only an active participant on the site, but by being an inhabitant of the entity. Only an inhabitant of the mud architecture can sustain it.

4 Mud_plaster_over_straw_bales_wallDesigners cannot, and must not meddle in mud architecture design or execution. A design student may be asked to design one and perhaps execute it, as a learning exercise. The fashionable word coined by teachers who never practice, or have never done, is “hand on experience” in material-form-and the technological implications.

3 Annual_repair_of_the_world's_largest_mud_brick_building_the_Great_Mosque_of_Djenné_in_Mali._(32088227574)





Post 425 –  by Gautam Shah


A system is an entity with recognizable parts or subsystems that in some way overlap or interact in time and space. This overlap of functions and degree of interactions project a singular purpose or identity of the system. A system is conceptual totality, but need not be a fathomable entity, like the atmosphere system. Systems have parts or subsystems that may seem to participate with other system. Such transcending parts individually reflect the nature of the systems they subsist on.

Richards Labs Penn L Kahn

Systems are also finite when they exist within an environment of discipline. Such open systems also have nodes where other distinct systems get attached. Many such interconnected systems again serve a singular purpose. Compared with the interconnected or open systems, there could be self-sustaining systems. Such systems are strongly contained, and so are closed systems. Open systems interact with other systems or outside environment, and Closed systems have little interaction with other systems or outside environment. Our body is an open system as it continuously interacts with the environment, where as a watch is nearly self sufficient entity.


Open system have external interactions, such as of information, energy, material and other resources export-import. Open systems retain the enthalpy to be in equilibrium. Open systems are like a digital word processor article or a spreadsheet which are amenable to changes or can be “adjusted’. Some legal agreements could an ironclad or closed document, which once created cannot be changed in any part, and must be redrawn. A quasi-legal agreement could be an understanding, an open document allowing future change or revision.

Emil Bach House FLW

In Architecture, buildings are classifiable into Open-ended and Closed-ended entities. An open-ended form and structure allow extensions or additions. Open-ended structures allow spatially limited or occasional alteration. Open-ended buildings have identifiable subsystems, each of which can be designed, executed, maintained, operated, upgraded, replaced or terminated by different agencies, at different times and circumstances. Open-ended systems inherently have multiple units of modulated sizes, form consistency patterned arrangement and perceptible organization.


Closed-ended structures have a self-sufficient form and singular purpose. Such structures reflect the one master ownership or single intent, and so are monumental, akin to a piece of sculpture. There may be nonfunctional repeat units in the composition for pattern making. A closed system does not transect anything, and may not have nodes of exchange. One need not be aware of the interior of the system, as there are ‘no repairable or serviceable components inside’. Such tags are very common on technical products of proprietary design.

All Gizah Pyramids

Certain forms or shapes are dominantly, either Closed-ended or Open-ended. Forms that are broader at the base, and narrower or pointed at the top, do not allow extension. Pyramid, cone or tower, are closed ended systems. Similarly drum like shapes allow little additions except in the upward direction. Contrary to this, a square or rectangle is very extendible shape in all directions. Old Basilicas and Church buildings have been added upon, but Hindu temple is rather a static form.

Houses of parliament British

Highly articulated buildings like Versailles or British Parliament, are closed ended or static structures. It would be difficult to add upon them in any relevant manner without compromising the integrity of the built-form. Indian Parliament has an annex connected with an access tunnel. Versailles has glass pyramids (closed ended entities) as new extension.

Sansad Bhavan

Architects create monumental buildings by compromising many other functions or requirements. For such purposes the building is conceived with a single form (though transgressed in many ways), single material, or sensuality, nonhuman or disproportionate scale and fewer sub elements. Some explorations towards closed ended architecture or monumental buildings have been deconstructionist, gravity defying and highly dynamic or mobile forms.

Vitra fire station -Zaha Hadid