Wide Earth Smallholding

Wide Earth Smallholding

And Allaah has made for you the earth a wide expanse.(Qur'aan- 71:19)

Interview With An Earthbag Architect -Part 1

[The following is an interview with Jose Andres Vallejo of ‘Arquitectura en Equilibrio’
www.arquitecturaenequilibrio.com]

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1. Please give us some information about your general background and education. When did you develop an interest in architecture and specifically alternative types of architecture?

I recall being interested in architecture since very early when I was around 10 years old with a specific experience when staying overnight at a school friend’s home near Bogota that happened to be designed by probably the most relevant architect of the 20th century in Colombia, called Rogelio Salmona. What I remember of that experience is the warm and delightful emotion that this house, its materials and spaces created in me. This feeling kept reminding me of the power of architecture as a vehicle capable of shaping emotions in us, with all the responsibility that this implies.

Years after that it became clear to me that architecture combined many elements which were key motives for me such as: arts and creative processes, science and technology, and down to earth construction. All this to say that architecture is one of many paths to materialize ideas into experience and physicality that impacts on society and the natural and artificial structures of our earth, and this is what moves me. After studying architecture in the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota from 1995 to 2002 with additional minor studies in industrial design and anthropology, and working for some years in different areas, the question of how to continue this path independently and coherently, how to impact the least environmentally with my work and maximize a positive social output came to me. This motivated me to think alternatively, research and seek out different construction methods and materials.

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2. You have been involved with various types of projects that utilized different standard and alternative building methods. Why have you focused on earthbags as the sustainable technology you prefer?

 

Earthbag building has captured my attention and work for some years now, and that is for the unique combination of attributes that this technique combines and the ease in which these attributes fit in my current social and natural environment here in Colombia. Earthbag building is a tool that can be shared and taught easily; it can produce robust, high quality dwellings for so many people, especially in rural areas were economic resources are short, but human and natural ones abound. Conceptually, earthbag building fits the criteria that I was seeking: it utilizes local untransformed materials to a great extent, it’s resistant to earthquakes, fires, winds, floods and even radiation. It can be built by anyone with a strong aspiration and simple training. In terms of design possibilities it offers plasticity, flexibility, malleability and structural strength which enable configurations that are more organic and natural in accordance more to ancient expressions of architecture, many of them loaded with sacredness and significance.

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3. How have you found that the earthbag technology compares in terms of overall building costs to other alternative methods? As clearly affordable housing is a concern for many people in many parts of the world.

 

When the human and natural resources are available, earthbag building becomes a competitive construction method with costs similar to low cost industrialized housing alternatives- at least here in Colombia, where the labor cost is relatively low.

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[To be continued…]

 

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17 comments

  1. Great name for the site! I have a hard time reading the font though and especially down here in the comments. 😀 Too pale and small for my old eyes.

  2. Khadijah, What a beautiful concept for a blog! I love the name and the idea of it all, and the design. Except for this comment field. I can barely read what I’m typing, it’s so light. Technical stuff aside though, I look forward to reading more!

    1. Thank you Dani and Susan- I will pass your technical observations on to the webmaster! I’m so glad that you like the concept and overall design, though. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time.

  3. As salaam alayki wa rahmatullah

    Allahû Akbar! Wa baraka Allahu feekum, may Allah reward you immensely for you works, ameen. I agree with Mrs. Dani and Susan.

    I was thinking in asking you for advices on organic garderning and how to make bread, but Alhamdulillah the idea to share all you knowledge on those fields is wonderful, masha’ Allâh. Im so happy for your blog.

    I will spred it with other muslim so they can as well benefit from it biitnihllah. As far I know, there is not a blog like yours on the muslim community.

    May Allah reward you all for what you do on His behalf, allahumma ameen.

    Umm Sakînah Tasnîm al Biruaniyah.

    1. Please, ask any questions you have, and I will do my best to answer them in future posts. Insh’Allaah I will get a couple of articles up on making bread and organic gardening. We’ve started our indoor seedlings this year, and are working to get things ready outside for planting.

  4. As Salam Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatu;
    Barak Allahu Feekum for providing us with yet another amazing reference site ukhti. As always, I will surely gain much need knowledge from your postings. I have to agree with the other sisters about the font color on the comment section. It is very difficult to read while typing…InshaAllah I dont have any errors.

    Alhamdulillah my little nephew and I started our little garden yesterday. So far we have planted strawberries, squash, cucumbers, beans and watermelon. I am looking forward to any pointers. Also we tried your wonderful recipes and they were amazing as always. I can not wait to try them with our homegrown vegetables.

    Shukran for all your efforts and may Allah reward you and your family both in this dunya and Jannah.

    Aisha

    1. I did mention the font color to Abu Sukhailah, insh’Allaah he will try to fix it, but some things are due to the template and might not be able to be changed. We will see what we can do, insh’Allaah.
      So glad about you and your little nephew and your garden! The strawberries probably won’t bear well this year, maybe not at all, but your other plants will, insh’Allaah, give you some good eating this year! Our little seedlings are coming up well inside, a little leggy, but hopefully, insh’Allaah, they will be okay. We need to get some trellis for the sweet peas and the green beans before we plant them outside. We bought strawberry plants that grow in containers, so we will see how they come out!
      It’s amazing what you can plant in even a small space, alhamdulillah.
      So glad to see you here, any comments or questions are always welcome!

  5. Wow! Where to start! How wonderful at every turn. So many of my dreams come true from your homeschooloing and baking to your gardening and living sustainably. Dave and I did so much of this in the beginning and then it went by the wayside as our relationship did. I even stopped making my own bread. Sukhailah, your recipe really got me excited to try my hand at getting into bread making again. Juwairiyah, I make a lot of cornbread and squash, but never did these variations. I can’t wait to try it. You all inspire me so much! I can’t wait to hear more about your villages! Always, Thurayah

    1. Hello Thurayah, so good to hear from you! I think I first got interested in living in a sustainable, responsible way through Mujaahid’s dad and you and Dave. He used to tell me about the things that you did, mash’Allaah. Hopefully someday you will be baking bread with us, insh’Allaah. Love you!

  6. asSalam aleikum,

    I came across this website as I am very interested whenever Islam and ecology intersect, especially when Permaculture is involved.

    My wife and I have started our own Permaculture company based in Malaysia where we live. We actually are visiting my parents in the NorthEast U.S. at the moment.

    I just noted the part where you mentioned you have been in Yemen for ten years and recently moved to America. I have not really been following your blog so forgive me if you mentioned it in another post, but I am curious to know what was involved in the decision to return to the U.S. if you don’t mind sharing.

    I myself am of Italian descent and was born and raised here in the U.S. and find myself facing a struggle of whether to stay “here” or “there”.

    Anyhow, I wish you and your family success in this life and the hereafter.

    Best Regards,

    Giovanni

    1. Wa Aleikum Assalam wa Rahmatullah
      Alhamdulillah, I have read about your company in Malaysia, I believe at the PRI site. Excellent work, mash’Allaah, I’ve bookmarked your site.
      Our decision to return to the States was based on many things. For one thing, the political situation where we lived (and in all of Yemen, really) was, and is, rather volatile. Even with the change of presidents, there are a lot of undercurrents going on over there concerning autonomy for the North and the Houthi rebellions in the North. Also, was the fact that we could not really own land there properly, or become citizens- though three of our children, who were born there, would have had that possibility had we stayed until they had reached a certain age. Yemen is known as a place where you can be thrown out for no apparent reason, creating an even more unstable environment. We wanted the stability to be able to build and grow as we wished, with some sort of security involved. As of now ,there are limited places you can live legally in Yemen as a foreigner, and much of that depends on where one is employed. Because of this we had to live in the South, and my heart was connected to the North and its more gentle and wetter climes. The heat and sun of the place we lived actually made me physically ill, as I have a condition that is exacerbated by that type of weather. Also, as you probably know, the water situation in Yemen is very dire, mash’Allaah, which was yet another thing we had to consider. If it came down to the people with money having the water, we wouldn’t have had the water! Another consideration was simply monetary. We have a very large family, and it was difficult to live on what my husband made there. We are in the book publishing business, and I am a teacher and writer, and we are hoping to do more with these things here, where the Muslims need a way to get correct knowledge in English.
      These are just some of the reasons we considered when trying to make a decision. Then we made istikara, and went ahead as we felt we had to. When I was there, I missed the land of my childhood- now, here, I miss my adopted land, of Yemen- so my heart is in two places.

  7. Assalamoe alaykoem Khadijah,

    I haven’t gotten around to looking at this blog yet but i read about it on your other one, which, mashaAllah, i love . I just wanted to share the concept of ‘transition towns’. If you google it inshaAllah you’ll find something in your area, they’re all over the place. It’s all about becoming self-sufficient as a community and not being dependent on peak oil, so I thought you might be interested considering the quote you mentioned on striving towards self-reliance and self-sufficiency.
    Barakallahoefik for your beautiful and inspiring writings mashaAllah.

    1. Wa Aleikum Assalam wa Rahmatullah
      Mash’Allah, I have heard about transition towns, but I never looked into them closely. I will certainly do a search on them now, insh’Allaah. BarakAllaahufeekee for bringing them to my attention!
      Alhamdulillah, I am glad that you enjoy Yemeni Journey!!

  8. Hi Khadijah,

    I found your blog from your comment post on my recent article on the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia http://permaculture.org.au/2012/05/23/getting-kids-into-gardening-part-iv-creativity-in-the-garden/
    Thank you for your lovely comment!

    I see you are a homeschooler (as am I) and into ‘green’ living and since you liked my PRI series, I thought that maybe you would be interested in some of the stuff I have on my own websites.

    One is an eco/sustainability website http://earthwiseharmony.com which has eco type articles on all kids of topics, as well as a section of kids activities http://earthwiseharmony.com/KIDS/index.php

    The other is an educational website, with kids activities in all kinds of subject areas (with lots more to come!!) http://barinya.com/

    I am passionate about kids learning in a relevant manner that brings purpose to their activities and helps prepare them for the future that is unfolding.

    I hope that maybe something on my sites will be of interest to you… or your readers. I’d also welcome it if you would like to write anything for us (or anyone who reads this) giving any ideas or thoughts you may have, or sharing the kinds of things your kids do, or that you do on your small property.

    I wish you well on your life journey!

    Anthea.

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