Mud WORKS! Architecture Biennale 2016, Venice

Anna Heringer, Martin Rauch, Andres Lepik

3 Billion people on this planet live in buildings made of mud. For good reason!

Mud is still the predominant building material of our world's population. From Latin America to Africa, from Europe to Asia - it is available almost everywhere and available at a low cost. It comes directly from the earth and can be returned to the earth without any harm to the environment. It has been used since the beginning of human habitation - for any purpose, whether in spacious rural or dense urban contexts. It has incredible and yet undiscovered potential for the future.

Currently, more and more mud structures are being replaced with materials that require non-renewable resources that consume energy and create high levels of carbon dioxide pollution. Simply put, the planet does not possess enough resources to build 7 billion homes out of concrete and steel. We need to explore mud as the material for our future cities and homes.

We need more research, detailed technical development, and new architectural solutions to address the needs and aspirations of current and futures societies. We need to discuss this material, widely publish it in magazines, present it in exhibitions, and embed it in the curriculum of universities. We need to train new craftsmen. We need projects that reflect the stability, the comfort, the social and ecological relevance, and the beauty of mud architecture. 


The installation:

Earth is more than a building material. The relationship between human beings and this material is as old as humankind - but we almost lost contact. This installation invites an experience of this material in a very intimate way. In our work, one of our primary challenges is convincing clients to believe in the quality of earth: its stability, its haptic treasures, its richness in colors, its positive influence on our body and mind. This is difficult to transmit with pictures. It needs to be touched.

This is why we transformed our exhibition space, with 25 tons of mud, into an immediate experience built in earth, including:

  • a rammed earth floor with a rammed earth bench;
  • a rammed earth panel (Stampflehmbild);
  • mud-casein colors on the walls;
  • a sculpture to sit in called "Pepita" (the Italian word for nugget) in Zabur technique, shaped layer by layer using only the hands as a tool.

Where can one find mud in Venice? The city is made of bricks. The factory location and clay source of San Marco - Terreal Italia is located nearby on the mainland, and has a storied history in producing Venice's most important building material. This time, however, the mud is not fired!

Construction: March 2016 - June 2016

Structural Engineer: Sigurd Flora

Site Manager: Stefano Mori
Assistant Site Manager: Johannes Lerch
Office Manager: Clemens Quirin
Assistant Architect: Jomo Zei

Assistant Curator: Zsuzsanna Stanitz
Editor of Texts: Lindsay Howe Blair
Graphic Design: Thomas Kronbichler, Martin Kerschbaumer (Studio Mut)

Local collaborators: Barbara Narici, Rebiennale

Workshop team of TU Munich: Matthias Kestel,  Elke Kirst, Christoph Perl (Research Associates), Hanna Albrecht, Sophie Kotter,  Leonie Morano, Lotta Ewert, Jonas Pauli (Students)

Supported by: Ricola Foundation, Arts and Culture Division of the Federal Chancellery of Austria, Curry Stone Foundation, SanMarco - Terreal Italia, Department of Architecture Technical University of Munich, Jurgen Laartz, Federal State of Vorarlberg, Lehm Ton Erde Baukunst GmbH, gbd ZT GmbH, CommonThread