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  • Writer's pictureScarlett Lee

Beauty in Weathering on Rammed Earth

Updated: Apr 17, 2023


Once the construction of buildings is completed, the job of human is finished and there is much less scope for changing the form or design of building surfaces. That is the most case of modern building materials. However, for rammed earth, once the role of human ends, that is when nature and time play their part.


Fabric formed rammed earth. fabric formwork, weathering, erosion, beauty in weathering, pattern in architecture, surface architecture, earth building, mud building, rammed earth wall, earth wall
The patterned fabric formed rammed earth wall displays a different degree of erosion from rough and smooth texture. Left) Just after the completion of construction. photo taken in Nov. 2021. Right) About a year later. Photo taken in Dec. 2022


The fine particles of the surface of rammed earth are washed away by rainfalls and wind and are deposited to the ground where they came from. This is not the end but the new beginning starts. The surface in where fine particles are eroded, rough aggregates are revealed showcasing the rough and haptic texture. The patterned surface of fabric formed rammed earth even makes the touch of nature artful, because the top part of the pattern is more eroded being more exposed to rainfall, but the bottom is less eroded maintaining relatively smooth texture. Also, the gradation of erosion is shown throughout the surface of rammed earth wall because the bottom part of the wall is more subject to be eroded by splashing water and the limited length of overhang. Within the play of time and nature, the rammed earth is dressed in new texture.


Fabric formed rammed earth. fabric formwork, weathering, erosion, beauty in weathering, pattern in architecture, surface architecture, earth building, mud building, rammed earth wall, earth wall
Gravels are exposed after fine particles are washed away. Left) Just after the completion of construction. photo taken in Nov. 2021. Right) About a year later. Photo taken in Jan. 2023

Fabric formed rammed earth. fabric formwork, weathering, erosion, beauty in weathering, pattern in architecture, surface architecture, earth building, mud building, rammed earth wall, earth wall
Erosion mainly occurred at the upper part of the pattern and it did not happen further from lime-stabilised layer. Left) Just after the completion of construction. photo taken in Dec. 2021. Right) About a year later. Photo taken in Dec. 2022

John Ruskin (1849) said ‘the great glory of a building is not in its stones, nor in its gold. Its glory is in its Age.” He praised the “golden stain of time” that adds value to architecture. The power of nature on building is further declared by George Simmel. He said that the nature is so powerful to put “downward” what people has built “upward”, but he told that “the new form” is reborn in the touch of nature reconstructing the work of human into “material for her own expression” (Simmel,1911). The statement of Ruskin and Simmel is very much co-aligned with the beauty of fabric formed rammed earth that can be found from erosion.


Fabric formed rammed earth. fabric formwork, weathering, erosion, beauty in weathering, pattern in architecture, surface architecture, earth building, mud building, rammed earth wall, earth wall
Detailed surface of fabric formed rammed earth wall about 1 year after completion

Modern building materials have developed to defence its surface against weathering and the power of nature, whereas rammed earth unfolds its new form by involving nature as an important design key player allowing her to reshape, re-carve, and restructure the surface over time.




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