Formal imprecision seems to be characteristic of clay houses, but we know very well that beauty can also be found in imperfection. What we require of precise forms is both an accurate graphic description and an identical transposition in reality. Still, when the clay house is not made of similar modules – and sometimes even if it is – the forms it proposes have a rather sculptural appearance, and the manner of creation thereof borrows a lot from the gestures pertaining to ceramic modelling and the improvisation of bricolage; all, at a scale mindful of human habitation. However, the scale remains moderate, restricted as it is by the possibilities of the material. An extremely accessible material whenever a land portion is available. It could be that this very accessible nature of the material and the formal imprecision of the product lend clay houses a largely vernacular appearance, seeming to have been designed only to a small extent. In fact, designed clay houses acquire, without necessarily wanting to, a phony aspect: the material is poor, but the mere act of designing denies the poverty. And clay requires a certain austerity in order to be beautiful; not just an austerity of image, but also an economy of means. This could account for the fact that the beautiful, organic and lively clay structures are those which preserve some degree of spontaneity. The natural, non-fabricated nature of the material also upholds the vernacular and allows the clay house to remain extremely integrated in the landscape wherefrom it emerged. When we are not dealing with a unique structure, but with the appropriation of the earth as a building material at community level, the landscape is being re-shaped: repetitive «cells» – as a matter of principle, not identically – which impress by their association in a coherent system rather than by the uniqueness or spectacular nature of each of the units: the earth of that place was displaced and replaced.
When the clay houses do not belong to the people: the ant colony.
The subterranean nest of the ant colony associates two basic units: the descending, spiraling corridor and the horizontal chamber. There are more and larger rooms in the upper part of the nest, and fewer and smaller in the deeper portion. As they grow in size, the nests also grow deeper, acquiring new chambers and corridors and enlarging the existing ones. (1) (the interior configuration)
Forms of Appropriation.
Natural formations in the volcanic rock, which formally re-create the shelter in its most primary form: the grotto. (Bandama Cladera, Gran Canaria, Spain)
The rest of the article can be foun in issue nr 4 /2011 of Arhitext.