This post was written by Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) Senior Fellow Nathaniel Corum, an architect and Head of Education Outreach at Architecture for Humanity. Part of his work connects university design programs to humanitarian design projects in order to create design teams that will produce exemplary and culturally-appropriate designs and feature resilient land use.
I’m passionate about creating landscapes and buildings that honor the earth, our shared home. The best architectural projects produce game-changing sites and facilities. And the best designs strengthen communities, human relations, and our connection to the land. As a leader of several Architecture for Humanity educational outreach teams, my goal is to connect design students with community members and professionals. With universities and other partners, these teams design and build projects featuring earth, straw, wood and stone that help indigenous people, inspire future projects and celebrate the earth.
Earth | Shirt sleeves and pant legs rolled up, we jump into the mud. Barefoot and laughing, we learn the adobe-making ‘dance’ with new friends in Oaxaca, Mexico. With our feet we stir earth, water and straw into what will soon become adobes: natural earthen building blocks. Here workshop students from Universitat Internacional de Catalunya join an Adobe for Women team to assist local women, re-vitalize the traditional practice of adobe home building, and address rural housing needs.
Straw | Stacking straw bales like adult Legos, tribal college students, community members and volunteers come together to raise straw bale walls, creating super-insulated structures made with local agricultural material. Once they’ve stacked the walls, they will add stucco covering, efficient fixtures, and roofing that will collect rainwater. Working together with American Indian tribal members and groups such as Indigenous Communities Enterprises and Red Feather, we are creating cozy homes and classrooms in the Southwest and in the Northern Plains where there is a dire need for high-quality, healthy and affordable housing.
Wood | While attaching brown seaweed starts to ropes that will be suspended in the sea, design students discuss future needs with a group of 15 seaweed farmers who lost just about everything when the recent tsunami flattened Shizagawa, Japan. The fishermen are working with Architecture for Humanity to rebuild an aqua-farming ‘Banya’ or workplace. Working alongside community members to clarify needs and refine designs, workshop students from the Kyoto University of Art and Design help by building tables, chairs, platforms, and furnishings for work, cooking, eating, and resting, all made from local wood in an area known for its agro-forestry.
Stone | Looking forward, we’re responding to a request for technical assistance in the Galápagos Islands involving stone. On several sites poised between small island communities and the Galapagos National Park, we’re focusing on Galápagos Indoor/Outdoor Classrooms. We’ll build environmental stewardship and education centers to help communities ensure the future of one of earth’s special places. The design brief stresses a preference for lava rock that is locally available. Among other materials, local stone will be in play as we build together celebrating the earth.
This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.