Earth building is unusual in Japan, a nation better-known for its high-tech and ultra-modern architecture. That's why this single-storey earth-brick residence in Chiba, Japan by Atelier Tekuto is so striking: not only does its curves differentiate it from the cookie-cutter linearity of its neighbours, but its slick interiors are a departure from the usual folksy fare in other earth projects.
The walls consist of 2,600 earth bricks made by hand out of a mixture of local soil and magnesium oxide, a stabilizer which can be found both in oceans and on land, sourced from magnesite mineral. This mineral has a long history of use according to Tokyo-based Atelier Tekuto, as it's the same mineral used in the masonry joints of the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids.
The strength of the bricks is much greater than the traditional sun-baked earth blocks made from animal manure and lime -- a process typically seen in developing nations. The different composition used in this project's earth blocks mean that they surpass Japanese construction standards for strength, one of the most stringent in the world.
But it's not just the structural strength of the bricks that makes this earth building outstanding, it's also about the details. Inside, the open living space feels like entering the belly of a great fish, with a kitchen and lofted sleeping area to one side, and the living room to another.
There's a closed bathroom underneath this mezzanine (outfitted with one of those high-tech Japanese toilets), and a storage area tucked underneath the stairs leading up to the sleeping loft.
Selection of materials was based on the keyword 'density' to achieve a harmonious mix -- from earth, to terrazzo floors, to the glass block windows and to laminated veneer lumber (LVL) elements.
"New soil structures"
The house is the result of the Earth Block Project, a research venture begun in 2008 in collaboration with universities, corporations and specialists.
Aiming to develop a "construction material that can be made with any soil in the world, is stronger than the existing soil construction material, and return to nature 100%," the project's catalyst comes from the fact that Japanese building is increasingly dependent upon cheap imports and is in the danger of losing its "regionality."
In the end, to address this issue the partners hope to develop earth-based and regionally-relevant solutions and "new soil structure[s]," not just in Japan, but elsewhere as well:
With the most advanced performance feature of this soil construction material, even houses made of sun-baked block in developing countries with dangers of collapsing from disasters can be made safer, cheaper.
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