The sometimes bleak terraces of the Southbank Centre were transformed recently by various architectural constructions as part of it’s 'Festival of the World'. Amongst stalactites of plastic bottles and a baobab tree made of rags were several blob-shaped adobe structures with portholes and fake grass reminiscent of ‘hobbit’ or ‘teletubby’ dwellings.
Built by ‘Small Earth’ eco builders, these were a fun-examples of a building system with huge potential to provide cheap and durable housing for the developing world and disaster-zones and perhaps for the developed world as well. The system is called ‘Superadobe’ and was created (originally as a proposal for dwellings on the moon) by the late Iranian architect, author and philosopher Nader Khalili who was interested in developing traditional low-tech building techniques to help alleviate the global housing crisis. Sandbags (filled with earth and cement) and barbed wire (often the by-products of war..) are built up in layers using the wire as reinforcement before the structure is rendered.The technique is perfectly suited to the traditional forms of arches, domes and vaults but as these can look alien to Northern and Western eyes it’s hard to imagine them dotted around the British countryside. A shame, perhaps, as they could hardly fail to be an improvement on the endless poorly-detailed, historical-pastiche developments that are inflicted on us.. and at a fraction of the cost. A slightly more mechanised version where tubular ‘sacks’ are extruded by machine can be used with beams to create buildings to suit Western archetypes with typical apex roofs..or could the Hobbit-house displace the executive cul-de-sac development?