Rammed earth building has proved itself to be durable over thousands of years. One example, as shown on our home page, is in the Old City of Sana’a in Yemen, which you can read more about from UNESCO on their World Heritage listings for rammed earth.They describe the city as having an “extraordinary density of rammed earth and burnt brick towers rising several stories above stone-built ground floors, strikingly decorated…Within the city, minarets pierce the skyline and spacious green bustans (gardens) are scattered between the densely packed houses, mosques, bath buildings and caravanserais.” The city has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years.
Built in 1842, New Zealand’s oldest rammed earth building is Pompallier House. It was built by the Pompallier Mission and originally housed a printery where Church texts were translated from Latin to Te reo Māori, then printed and bound. It is just one of several buildings, including a chapel and various outhouses, which once stood on the site, according to Heritage New Zealand. They claim ‘the Printery stands as New Zealand’s oldest industrial building, as well as the oldest of rammed-earth construction, distinctly French in style and making use of local materials including sand, rock and timber.’
Modern rammed earth homes have been winning awards all over the world for decades. However, a stunning rammed earth home receiving the first prize in the coveted World Building of the Year 2017 awards was particularly significant. This rammed earth home was designed and built in Guangming Village, in the Yunnan Province of China and was part of a village resurgence project led by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. New Zealand mag Idealog honed in on the win, as did many others, including an interview with Terra Firma’s Paul Geraets on why it is so significant for New Zealand.