Study Architecture, an online resource for undergraduate and graduate students interested in the profession of architecture, chose ft3's Zahra Sharifi's project for Part Eight of the Student Showcase series, which illuminates what it's like to study architecture across the globe. This installment focused on sustainability, particularly the concept of reuse in construction.
Zahra's thesis discussed the potential of using and reusing soil as a resource in construction—especially in winter climates—to combat harmful substances that have replaced it and similar materials that humans have used to create cities and communities for many millenniums.
Check it out below:
Nan/nang/: Earth and Us
My thesis is focused on the potential of using and re-using local soil and modernized primitive vernacular strategies. I grew up and was educated in the historical city of Yazd, located in the largest desert of Iran, famous for its integrated earth urban fabric and climate adaptive structures. My interest in vernacular methodologies using soil became a starting point for questioning the lack of commitment towards earth construction in cold climates. As abundant and pliable materials, soil and mud are sustainable resources that have been used in construction for thousands of years, yet they have been replaced by harmful substances. By consuming all our natural energy resources, we will eventually reach a stage where manipulating and managing soil will become one of the leading global building strategies, and I believe inherited knowledge of traditional teachings is a starting point for all earth-based research.
Focusing on cold climates originated from my experience of living in Winnipeg and the city’s lack of earth awareness. Even though the area endures heavy winter snow, which requires thick waterproofing, insulation, and durable building envelope systems, there is a historical and geological connection between the city and mud. The muddy land of Alexander Docks next to Red river in central Winnipeg, intrigued me to think about the re-use of deposited mud from the river for earth construction. I am proposing an adaptive rejuvenation of the old warehouse adjacent to the docks, by mimicking the natural qualities of mud and adding new insulated exterior earth walls inspired by my own research, previous earth strategies conducted in Manitoba such as Sod houses and traditional Persian earth structures such as Karbandi. The building will act as an earth reconnection center in the heart of downtown inviting the locals and international researchers to engage in earthly thinking. The simplicity of the construction process is in direct relation to the simplicity of the structure which allows us to implement local common labor and on-site preparation. Low-tech earth strategies provide the opportunity for community participation in annual spring maintenance for example reapplying mud plaster on earth walls. By considering the excavated site soil and deposited mud from the river as the main building material ( processed and separated into silt, clay and sand) and reusing existing building waste such as bricks, concrete and steel for reinforcement, there is a possibility of neutral carbon construction.
To view the accompanying imagery or other students' project, please click here.