From Field to Form: Making with Earth

Moderated by Lola Ben-Alon, a group of practitioners discuss using earthen materials in building.

July 10, 2023

Recorded on April 28, 2023.

From Field to Form is a series of events exploring the possibilities, life cycles, and architectural implications of plant- and earth-based materials.

In this video, moderator Lola Ben-Alon of Columbia University GSAPP’s Natural Materials Lab, discusses the possibilities of earthen materials with practitioners, educators, policy advocates, and material scientists. 

The panel discusses natural earth- and fiber-based building materials, their manual and digital fabrication, life cycles, and supply chains, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of using earthen materials in construction, renovation, and mass/insulation. 

Participants include Lisa Morey, an engineer and architectural designer who owns and operates Colorado Earth, a company that produces adobe and earth blocks; Ronald Rael, a designer, activist, architect, and author whose research interests connect indigenous and traditional material practices to contemporary technologies and issues; Tommy Schaperkotter, an architect, builder, and educator devoted to the trans-disciplinary exploration of material cultures, construction ecologies, and interdependencies between built and non-built environments; and Lynnette Widder, an architect, architectural historian, and educator whose work currently focuses on low-carbon renovations of modernist buildings and the development of textile-reinforced raw-earth structures for the Sahel region in Africa.

Lola Ben-Alon is an assistant professor at Columbia University GSAPP, where she directs the Natural Materials Lab and the Building Technology curriculum. She specializes in earth- and bio-based building materials. Ben-Alon received her PhD from the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. Her work has been exhibited at the Tallinn Architecture Biennale, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and the Israel Museum, and published in Building and EnvironmentJournal of Green Building, and Automation in Construction.



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