The use of earth goes back to the earliest days of architecture. It was only with the advent of industrialization processes that the material was replaced and discarded, and associated with primitive ways of building. Environmental concerns and the pressures of climate change have been rescuing the material, which is carbon-neutral, and it has returned to the center of architecture’s interest.
Clay Rotunda by students of the MAS ETH DFAB, together with researchers of Gramazio Kohler Research, is ongoing research that has acted as a catalyst for the knowledge transfer between research and industry and is giving new meaning and investigating new ways —more efficient and durable— to build with earth.
This project combines clay with an in-situ robotic fabrication process by controlled pressing of clay cylinders to form interlocking aggregations. Built on-site with more than 30,000 soft clay bricks over 50 days, Clay Rotunda has a diameter of almost 11 meters and reaches a height of 5 meters with just unreinforced clay. The compression of about 60% of the original height assures a strong and interlocking aggregation, leading to a soft bond that expresses both the plasticity of the material and the dynamic forces of the construction process.