Back to Earth: Adobe Building in Saudi Arabia

Back to Earth: Adobe Building in Saudi Arabia

Back to Earth: Adobe Building in Saudi ArabiaAuthor(s):
William Facey

Publisher: I B Tauris & Co Ltd

Hardcover: 216 pages

ISBN: 1900404133

ISBN-13: 978-1900404136

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Until 1986, when it was acquired by H.R.H. Prince Sultan bin Salman Al Sa’ud, the old farmhouse at al-‘Udhaibat was a tumble-down, neglected mud-brick ruin, no different from many other such buildings which have survived in Saudi Arabia from before modernisation. It was unmaintained and – as all buildings of sun-dried mud will, if left – was quietly subsiding into oblivion. Al-‘Udhaibat is situated just north of the metropolitan sprawl of modern Riyadh, in a location of special resonance for Saudi Arabians. For it lies in the great Wadi Hanifah, just south of al-Dir’iyyah, the old, ruined mud-built capital of the First Saudi State and hub of the 18th-century Islamic reform movement. How the attempt to restore this modest farmhouse, once owned by the late King Faisal, developed into a complex project with important implications for rural housing and the place of traditional materials in modern building, is the story told in this book. Al-‘Udhaibat remains a test-bed, its performance under constant scrutiny, and a source of inspiration for the new generation of Saudi architects. Topics covered in this lavishly illustrated book, aimed alike at architects, planners and general readers, include: The role of vernacular style in modern architecture; The environmental and historical setting of al-‘Udhaibat; Traditional techniques of adobe building in Najd; Issues in adobe restoration and re-building; The re-building process in detail; The reclamation and re-conditioning of the farmland; The future of adobe in the modern world. Prince Sultan bin Salman Al Sa’ud is a grandson of the late King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and a nephew of the late King Faisal. He is perhaps best known to the general public for becoming, in 1985, the first Arab astronaut. He is today, however, equally prominent as an opinion-former, and his commitment to Islamic values and his concern for architecture and the environment are well-known. He is currently the President of the High Commission for Tourism in the Kingdom.


“Back to Earth is the story of a Saudi prince’s concern for the environment and his desire to preserve and give new life to the dying skills of adobe building in Saudi Arabia. To set an example, he has restored, in traditional techniques, a farmhouse outside Riyadh. The end result is stunning. … The most interesting section of the book is the description of the restoration. … The various processes are all documented with good photographs and drawings.” – Venetia Porter, Times Literary Supplement, 24 April 1998.

About the Author

William Facey is a historian of Arabia. He is also a museum consultant and a director of the London Centre of Arab Studies.
Appropriate Plasters For Cob And Stone Walls

Appropriate Plasters For Cob & Stone Walls

Appropriate Plasters For Cob And Stone WallsAuthor(s): Devon, England Earth Building Association

Free download from: Devon, England Earth Building Association
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Appropriate Plasters For Cob & Stone Walls … This pamphlet produced by the Devon, England Earth Building Association (where many hundreds of cob cottages exist, and are occupied) covers use of lime renders and washes for protection and repair of cob and stone.

Gives mixes, directions preparation methods, resources in the UK. Imported, 8 pages, xerographic.

The photo is of a cob house with thatched roof in Devon, England. A limewash over the cob walls makes the walls white.

The Last Straw Journal

The Last Straw

The Last Straw JournalAuthors: various

Publisher: Green Prairie Foundation for Sustainability

Order From: The Last Straw Journal

The Last Straw Journal is a (theoretically) quarterly journal of strawbale and natural building. Issues have been somewhat sporadic over the last several years due to health issues of the publisher, but don’t let that deter you – there are 60+ issues so far, all available as back issues in one form or another, and pretty much all of which contain good useful material on strawbale construction, plaster, foundations, etc, etc.

PDF copies have been available for a number of years, and they’re encouraging all subscribers to purchase PDFs if possible in order to reduce shipping and printing costs.

The first 40 issues are compiled on a single CD.


Built By Hand

Built By Hand

Built By Hand
Authors: Eiko Komatsu, Athena Steen, Bill Steen
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Gibbs Smith, Publisher; 1 edition (September 26, 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 158685237X
ISBN-13: 978-1586852375

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A modern, full-color version of the Bernard Rudofsky classic ‘Architecture without Architects’, this book takes readers on a magnificent journey to distant corners of the earth in search of the world’s most amazing vernacular architecture. It is the most comprehensive and groundbreaking documentation of hand-made architecture ever published. (Prarie Avenue Bookshop Holiday Gift Guide )

From elaborate bamboo structures in Sumba, Indonesia, to houses carved out of volcanic rock in Cappadocia, Turkey, and homes made from earth-block in Chipaya, Bolivia, Japanese photographer Yoshio Komatsu (assisted by spouse Eiko) has traveled the world photographing vernacular structures. The Steens (The Straw Bale House) provide captions and notes on construction techniques in stone, reeds and many other materials. With more than 700 full-color photos in an 8″X9″ format, the book takes readers to Ethiopia, Iran, Japan, Spain, Venezuela and many other places. (Publishers Weekly )

“more than just a collection of amazing photos” (The Last Straw Journal )

Product Description

Shelter the Human Family is the most extensive documentation ever published of traditional (“vernacular”) buildings throughout the world. With examples from nearly every continent, the book documents the diverse methods people have used to create shelter from locally available natural materials, and shows the impressively handmade finished products through this truly stunning compilation of photographs. Unlike modern buildings that rely on industrially produced materials and highly specialized electric tools and techniques, the shelters featured here represent a rapidly disappearing genre of handcrafted and beautifully composed structures. They are the work of simple and real people who, as builders and homesteaders, have integrated artistic beauty and practical form into their shelter needs. Shelter the Human Family offers insights into the world of vernacular building, along with potential solutions to many of the problems that plague modern architecture. It is a must-have collection that preserves and documents the rich cultural past of each structure and its community, and offers inspiration for those looking to build in a way that is motivated by something larger than speed, efficiency, and economic profit. Bill and Athena Steen are the authors of The Straw Bale House and The Beauty of Straw Bale. They are active in community building programs that teach low-income families how to build their own shelters, and known for their efforts to incorporate artistic techniques based on local and natural materials into the world of modern construction. They live in Elgin, Arizona. Yoshio Komatsu has been photographing buildings and people around the world for 25 years. His photographs were collected in the Japanese book Living on Earth, and his work is regularly published in books, magazines, and calendars throughout Japan. This is his first book in English. He and his wife, Eiko, live in Tokyo.

Drawn from African Dwellings

Drawn from African Dwellings

Drawn from African Dwellings

Drawn from African Dwellings

Author(s): Jean-Paul Bourdier, T. Minh-Ha Trinh, Trinh T. Minh-Ha

Publisher: Indiana Univ Press

ISBN: 0253330432

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“… an elegant and lyrical work…. It opens up our understanding of space and built environments in new and exciting ways.” — Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review

“The book offers marvellous drawings of complex patterns of structure, design and object, coupled with connections to the daily lives of the inhabitants. In itself, this book is an essential addition to what Indiana University Press has aptly described as ‘the understanding of vernacular architecture’.” — West Africa

“… a magnificent achievement; [the authors] set an objective and a standard in vernacular architecture research which is without parallel. The text is clear and careful, sensitive to the cultures yet quietly rigorous. The drawings are outstanding and have been exceptionally well reproduced in a book whose quality of production matches that of the content.” — Paul Oliver

“… a lasting monument to African architectures…. a fine creation, a collage of marvelous graphic images, earnest research, good writing, careful thinking.” — Henry Glassie

“Scholars are realizing how important it is to provide a rich, thick cultural and social setting when they attempt to explore art…. This book does that for architecture.” — Patrick R. McNaughton

“… will be regarded as an important contribution to the understanding of vernacular architecture.” — Berkeley Tri-City Post

“… a stunning piece of work… An important contribution to architecture…” — FIST, Afrocentric On-line Magazine

“The photographs and drawings are fascinating. ” — The New Brunswick Reader

Architect Jean-Paul Bourdier and cultural critic and filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha take us into the traditionally built dwellings of African society in this richly illustrated book. Through this “life-in-architecture” we see material evidence of a culture, its socio-economic and cosmological organization, its way of living, and its world view.

About the Author

JEAN-PAUL BOURDIER, Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, is the editor and co-founder of Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review. TRINH T. MINH-HA, Professor in the Departments of Women’s Studies and Film Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of a number of books, including Woman, Native, Other. Her films are Reassemblage, Naked Spaces — Living Is Round, Surname Viet Given Name Nam, Shoot for the Contents, and A Tale of Love.

Renovating Old Houses

Cover, Renovating Old Houses

Author(s): George Nash

ISBN: 1561581283

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George Nash offers the know-how for owners who want professional results and builders who are serious about renovation. You start by evaluating whether an old house is a diamond in the rough or a broken down wreck that’s not worth the effort of renovating. Next, you’ll learn how to set priorities and handle every renovating job, including replacing foundations, rebuilding windows, installing roofing and siding, repairing plaster, upgrading wiring, plumbing and heating systems, and much more. Hundreds of photos and detailed drawings show the gruesome reality of old homes along with methods for resurrecting them. With the help of this book, you’ll bring that old home up to modern standards without sacrificing the warmth and spirit of the original. 343 pages, 1992

Building with Lime

Cover, Building with Lime

Author(s): Stafford Holmes and Michael Wingate

ISBN: 1853393843

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Lime has been used in building for thousands of years and, used well, it continues to be the best and most versatile binder in the world. The special characteristics that make lime particularly appropriate for certain types of building include its porosity and permeability (the ability to “breathe”) and exceptional smoothness of texture. Lime can be used in every building element from the foundation and floor to the walls and roof. Lime can bind sand or other aggregates to form mortar. A similar mix with slightly different aggregate makes plasters to cover interior walls or renders for external applications. Lime can be molded into decorative elements or used as paint. It can be added to soil blocks for greater strength and stability. Before Portland cement, lime was used extensively for building construction and civil engineering. When making repairs or renovating historic structures, it is often more effective to use lime instead of more “modern” materials. Every type of lime has its own particular virtues and limitations and the successful use of lime in construction requires knowledge and skill. The author’s considerable experience with lime in building is brought together into one volume to provide an invaluable source of practical advice. This book is a starting point for those considering lime as a building material, and as a general reference to the broad range of uses for lime in construction. The information will assist manufacturers, investors, suppliers, as well as builders and owners of the buildings themselves to understand its value. Many examples are presented that illustrate the practical and aesthetic advantages of lime along with its commercial potential.

Building with Vision: Optimizing and Finding Alternatives to Wood

Author: Dan Imhoff

ISBN: 097095000

Order From: Amazon
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Building with Vision: Optimizing and Finding Alternatives to Wood

The United States has both the rare fortune and the dubious distinction of being among the only industrialized nations to use wood as its primary material for residential buildings. While other developed countries have evolved masonry and other building systems not reliant on wood, on average, a full acre of trees is consumed to build just one house in the United States. And, for every twenty houses built, enough waste is typically left over to frame another house.

Combining environmental philosophy, practical information, and dynamic visuals, Building with Vision makes accessible many solutions to wasteful tree-dependent construction and design. In addition to identifying the benefits, challenges, and applications of the recommended alternatives to contemporary American construction, this book details building methods to minimize wood waste, maximize efficiency, and emphasize the unique aesthetic properties of non-wood materials.

Part resource guide, part photo essay, this 136-page gem features beautifully composed, nearly tactile photographs that bring to life an array of alternative materials. Case studies highlight successful building projects that utilize innovative and effective framing, siding, insulation, roofing, and finishing materials and techniques.

Building systems featured include Rastra, a new kind of interlocking block made of recovered Styrofoam packaging; Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) made of plywood, OSB, or strawboard with a thick foam core; and a variety of “Eco-Crete,” super-insulating concrete systems. A wide range of finish materials are discussed as well: panel board made from agricultural crop waste, flooring derived from used tires, natural linoleum and certified woods, and cement countertops embedded with finds from the urban waste stream.

“This book can be a lifesaver for trees and our limited architectural horizons. It invites challenges to its critiques. Let the debate begin.” — Ralph Nader

“Building with Vision is timely and extremely useful, a must-have resource for every architectural studio across the country.” — Sim Van der Ryn architect, director of the Ecological Design Institute

About the Author Dan Imhoff has authored dozens of articles and essays on issues ranging from forest conservation and paper production to the global economy, sustainable agriculture, and green building. Imhoff’s articles have appeared in Sierra, Saveur, Whole Earth, Communication Arts, Orion Afield, and many books and journals. With his wife and two children, he lives part-time in an off-the-grid home produced with many certified and salvaged, wood and non-wood materials.

Born in Parma, Italy, Roberto Carra is an internationally renowned photographer, graphic designer, and art director.

softcover :: 9″ x 8″ :: 136 pages, color photographs :: b/w photographs bibliography :: resource list

Earth Plasters for Straw Bale Homes

Earth Plasters for Straw Bale Homes

Earth Plasters for Straw Bale HomesAuthor(s): Keely Meagan

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Earth Plasters for Straw Bale Homes by Keely Meagan of Earth Artisans, NM (shown plastering a straw bale house with Jazz, the cat.)

53 pages of everything about using earth and mud for a natural finish on bale walls. Covers earthen recipes, planning, testing, problems, how to mix and apply each coat, tools ( trowels and others) and materials needed, resources, great black & white instructional photos. This is a warm and engaging teaching book!

The book has many recipes good for all types of natural homes and plaster projects.