Rammed earth construction at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

The Forms Are Off!

It was time for MudWorks to emerge from its wooden cocoon. The earth in the main wall had been packed and rammed and packed again, so just after midday on Thursday designers Anna Heringer and Martin Rauch gave the word to take down the forms.

Carrying the forms away

Carrying the forms away

Loeb Jean Brownhill Lauer, Loeb affilliate James Lauer, and GSD student Alex Myer started gingerly prying off the boards. The forms proved a bit stubborn, so it was clear more force was needed. With the help of drills, makeshift levers and brute strength, they began removing the plywood that had been holding the mud in place for six days.

Alex removing the forms

Alex removing the forms

It was as if they’d just uncovered a buried treasure. The wet, glistening black mud was perfectly formed, with sharp, creased corners. With the wooden shroud gone, it was possible to see the work of a 100 volunteers made visible.

Anyone lose some money?

Anyone lose some money?

Orange streaks surged through the black mud, giving it the look of a geological formation. Volunteer Sarah Kantrowitz, who traveled from New York to work on the project, picked out “the eyes,” – the pine knots imprinted from the plywood. A dollar bill had somehow become wedged in one of the seating niches. No one claimed it, so it looks like it’s there to stay.
Martin and James taking off the form

Martin and James taking off the form

There were a few minor causalities in the course of taking down the forms. Some dirt broke off one corner and had to be repaired. But it was easy for Jean and Anna to patch by packing on wet mud by hand.

Anna fixes a corner

Anna fixes a corner

It was important to hurry, though. Within the next few hours, the mud began to dry. By early evening it had turned from black to a soft, pachyderm gray. That’s natural. One of the great things about rammed earth is that the material continually evolves. What a contrast to see the rich, textured mud against the stony concrete of Gund Hall.

Streaks of gray and orange as mud dries

Streaks of gray and orange as mud dries

The timing of the work couldn’t have been more perfect. MudWorks was revealed just in time for Anna and Martin to give their lectures on rammed earth construction in the GSD’s Piper Hall. Four students volunteers also talked about their participation in the design and construction of the project: Caroline James, Alex Myers, Nick Rivard, Catinca Dobrescu. The project, Alex told the audience, “has already democratized the site.” Passersby were stopping constantly to ask students questions about rammed earth. Not only had MudWorks improved the appearance of Gund Hall’s least attractive corner, it had become a way for architects to reach out to the wider world.
Jim Stockard inspecting the wall

Jim Stockard inspecting the wall

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One response

  1. Pingback: MUD HALL – 2012 Loeb Fellows | FuturesPlus

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