Clay making and an exhibit of clay tiles

Earthen Tectonics

Team: Jessica Rossi-Mastracci (UMN LA, co-organizer) + Adam Marcus (CCA, co-organizer)
work by MArch students: Genevieve Hircock, Cole Feriancek, Kennawak Geneti, Nicolas Brueske, Logan Stein, Rachel Mansun, Dan Dorr, Lauren Tateosian, Fran Di Caprio, Lizzie Cai, Sanidhya Kumal, and Michael Hempel

This workshop melded digital and analog workflows, combining an experimental rammed earth material practice with an iterative digital fabrication process to create a series of cast modules with surface variability and patterning to speculate on hydrological and landscape change.

“Earthen Tectonics" was a Catalyst 2022 workshop that combined an experimental analog rammed earth material practice with an iterative digital parametric design and fabrication process, viewing fabrication as integral in the design process.

Students first gained an understanding of rammed earth as a material practice through creating a series of samples with traditional, bio-based, and experimental recipes. Grasshopper and RhinoCAM generated surface patterns and variable tectonics, then students fabricated the resulting surfaces out of solid maple using a 3-axis CNC router. This created 10”x10” molds for pouring rammed two earth modules to further develop variation through exploring different mixtures, tamping techniques, and ideas about surface performance.

While the wooden modules could be precise due to the high-fidelity capabilities of the CNC router, rammed earth is a low-fidelity and imprecise material, leading to unanticipated outcomes in the casts. These lost textures, imprecise forms, and emerging geometries became a source of inspiration as students developed speculative collages, informing areas of water collection, decay, impermanence, permeability, and other ephemeral landscape qualities at multiple physical and time scales.

Workshop outcomes demonstrate novel surface geometries, landscape functions, material assemblies, and speculative futures emerging from a variable and highly articulated surfaces utilizing rammed earth.  

Funders: Kusske Design Initiative (KDI)