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Natural Materials Lab

The Natural Materials Lab, founded and directed by Assistant Professor Lola Ben-Alon, investigates raw, earth- and fiber-based building materials, their life cycle, supply chains, fabrication techniques, policy, and upscaled possibilities. Our research and teaching craft new ways to imagine and invent socially equitable and ecologically sustainable futures by converging material science, geology and geography, architecture, engineering, art, and design.


The Raw Earth Sgraffito Pavilion, Roofing Detail
Tracing the social and material ecologies of sourcing earth through Sgraffito ornamentation.
3D Printed Earth-fiber experiments with lightweight Mashrabiya construction.
Advancing flexible, structural textiles with natural earth- and bio-based materials.
Advancing eco-friendly materials through building policy and education
The Biophilic Design and Natural Materials Card Toolkit
Using biophilic design and natural materials to promote recovery and wellbeing in healthcare envi...
Exhibition view of the Eat Me Build Me brick project installation.
Speculating the mineralogical content of earth materials for buildable -and edible- practices
Thermal Comfort Survey for Occupants in Uninsulated Earthen Structures
The Environmental Impacts of Thermal Experience
The Farm to Building Installation at Lamont Doherty
A raw (non-stabilized) rammed earth installation at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
Advancing the science and geometry of 3D printed earth
Catalyzing the use of low-carbon and community-engaging building materials through systematic LCAs
Integrating earth as a series of wearable garments, built directly onto one’s body
Integrating earth as a wearable substance, built directly onto one’s body
Grounded Chairs is a 100% organic biodegradable low-carbon seating system.
Soil variance, used in rammed earth construction
Characterizing a range of soils to create a collective rammed wall installation
Achieving complex parametric forms through analog means with natural materials
Achieving complex parametric forms through analog means with clay
Reconciling architectural representations of housing while drawing from land art practices
Reconciling architectural representations of housing while drawing from land art practices


Introducing architectural design responses for energy, climate, and comfort
A project-based seminar that provides both theoretical and hands-on building experience
Understanding and managing embodied and operational energy through Life Cycle Assessments (LCA)

Who We Are

The Natural Materials Lab is directed by Lola Ben-Alon, Assistant Professor and Sequence Director of the Building Science and Technology curriculum at GSAPP.
Current Team
Tashania Audrey Akemah, M.Arch ‘24
Zina Berrada, M.Arch '23
Penmai Chongtoua, MA. Climate and Society '22
Mohammad Hossein Zowqi, M.Arch '25
Kate Perez, M.Arch '25
Kumru Emine Taha, CC '25

Past Researchers
Zackary Eugene Bryson, M.Arch ‘24
Andrew Chee, M.Arch '24
Sarah Hejazin, MS.AAD '21
Bisher Tabaa, M.Arch '23
Saba Ardeshiri, M.Arch '23
Jennah Christina Jones, M.Arch '23
Mariami Maghlakelidze, MS.AAD '21
Reem Makkawi, M.Arch '22

Recent News

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GSAPP Conversations:
Natural Materials Mini Series with Lola Ben-Alon

Over the Fall 2020 semester, Assistant Professor Lola Ben-Alon hosted a mini-series on natural and living building materials as part of the GSAPP Conversations podcast. The Natural Materials mini-series consists of conversations with designers, builders, and product developers of clay, bamboo, fibers, and bacterial concrete. Natural materials are defined as minimally processed, readily available, nontoxic, healthy, and engaging materials. They are critically needed to reduce carbon emissions and extractive harmful impact associated with conventional building materials.