The Natural Materials Lab, led by Assistant Professor Lola Ben-Alon at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (Columbia GSAPP), presents the exhibition “Making with Earth: Digital and Manual Craft using Earthen Materials in Building,” which explores in-depth research on a range of earth-based natural mixtures, combining plant fibers and biological additives. The exhibition includes work produced as part of the Spring 2023 “Making with Earth” course taught by Lola Ben-Alon. Participants include Priscilla Auyeung, Willy Cao, Ting-Hao Chen, Linda Deng, Paul Edward Liu, Armita Peirovani, Neil Potnis, Zhuofei Tang, Justin Wan, Weiwei Wang, Yifei Yuan, Chan Zhang, Clara Zhao, Zixiao Zhu, Runxin Fu, Wenjing Xue, Jacky Tian, Sixuan Chen, Yvonne Fu, Yichun Liu, Daniel Vanderhorst, Charlie Liu, Xiyu Li, Yuli Wang.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Architectural League of New York is hosting a panel discussion among Lola Ben-Alon, Lisa Morey, Ronald Rael, and Tommy Schaperkotter on April 28 will focus on natural earth- and fiber-based building materials, their manual and digitally-driven fabrication, life cycles, and supply chains, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of using earthen materials in construction, renovation, and mass/insulation. Visit the event page on the Architectural League’s website. The entrance is free, but registration is required; please note this event has reached the maximum number of registered attendees.
Earthen materials are low carbon, ubiquitous, and low cost. Structures of raw earth, built without cement or synthetic stabilizers, have the potential to minimize embodied fuel and carbon emissions from chemical, industrial, and thermal processing. Non-commodified and readily available, earth materials are also in the essence of traditional construction methods, which are increasingly pushed outside codes and practices due to industrial export, colonialism, and material powers.
This exhibition concludes a semester-long exploration that engaged with the histories, chemistry, durability challenges, and futuristic application possibilities of earth materials. Students dived deep into hands-on experiences, developing a range of earth-based mix designs and tested their fabrication mechanisms, including digital 3D printing, mechanical pressing, and manual craft. Students drew inspiration from traditional techniques such as adobe, rammed earth, cob, clay plasters, and straw bale construction, to speculate the future of earth materialities. The class studied the performance and environmental benefits of each speculative project while making a sensitive choice of materials, technical details, and fabrication processes.
Free and open to the public.
The exhibition and discussion are organized by Lola Ben-Alon and co-hosted by 1014, Columbia GSAPP Natural Materials Lab, and the Architectural League of New York with support from DWIH - The German Center for Research and Innovation.
The Natural Materials Lab at Columbia GSAPP promotes equitable design using natural, readily available, low-carbon, non-toxic, and uncalcined building materials. The Lab fosters research and teaching that crafts new ways to understand and imagine socially equitable and environmentally sustainable futures, by fostering connections across the arts, humanities, and engineering.