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Walls of Earth

Part 1 Project 2013
Nasser Alzayani
American University of Sharjah, UAE
Beginning with the most primitive notion of architecture as any structure/object/space that shelters us from the harsh environment, the project responds to this need within a fictitious, desolate desert landscape.

Focusing on a single method of construction, namely rammed earth, this initial phase of the project involved quick studies into the various possibilities offered by a particular approach. Using clay models the flat arid landscape began to transform as the walls were stacked and ground was sculpted. The malleable clay allowed for forms that appeared to emerge out of the ground, but also crack, break and chip away as time went on. The idea of building a shelter using only available material while expressing the effects of weathering and time, were driving factors in choosing the methodology and process when making.

Moving forward, the project shifted from the hypothetical desert setting into the tightly-knit, historical urban fabric of the Sharjah waterfront. The Heritage Area of Sharjah includes many historical buildings built using the available, local coral stone. Built in close proximity to one another, they created interstitial, narrow alleyways which sporadically expanded into larger squares. These interstitial moments became central to the development of circulation and program between the overlapping earth walls. As one moved through the project they would pass through small, medium and large spaces, each serving a purpose to direct, accommodate or relieve the visitor.

The process of making drove the project using digital modelling and fabrication methods. Through the use of a CNC router, a mold was created in which concrete could be cast. A large site model was cast depicting the manipulation of the ground plane and the first phase of construction: the building of stem walls. This model returns to the initial ideas of construction and time; on the one hand the model could be interpreted as a work in progress where the building of the rammed earth can now begin, on the other hand it could be imagined as a ruin. When the roof caves in and the earth walls weather and crumble, the concrete is all that remains.

Nasser Alzayani


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