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Raw Earth Sgraffito

Tracking and comparing localized supply flows of materials across urban regions is key to generate critical insights on material properties, labor, environmental and social life cycles, embodied carbon, and cities themselves in ways not usually accessible.

The Raw Earth Sgraffito Pavilion uses raw soils and agricultural by-products, combined with unique techniques for improved structural integrity. Its walls are constructed of blocks pressed from soil excavated from tunnels dug to expand the Paris RER rapid transit system. The plaster was applied using a Sgraffito technique, which involves the layering and curving of multiple earthen coats to form intricate patterns. The incised patterns created a series of map elements that represent trade route material geographies of the pavilion.

This project offered the opportunity to trace the relationship between site and hinterland along lines of supply; to consider, by comparison, the typical methods of construction used in the buildings around the site; and to engage in the tactile and social experience of construction labor.

The construction of the pavilion further fostered knowledge exchange through collaborative activities, bringing together contractors, builders, designers, students, scholars, and material enthusiasts and culminating in discussions of and hands-on engagement with the building techniques.