March 26, 2010
The DVD documentary “First Earth: Uncompromising Ecological Architecture” from PM Press isn’t just inspiring, it makes you think you could actually build a house.
It starts with the premise that when oil goes away (as all finite resources must), people are going to have to know how to build shelter using the materials on hand. Then it sprinkles in factoids such as that half — half! — of the world’s population lives in homes made of mud.
Your first reaction might be either “What about earthquakes?” or “A mud hut sounds depressing.” But then director David Sheen takes you around the world to see what mud architecture has to offer.
For instance, in the Pacific Northwest, one building made from mud and straw — a technique called “cob” — is seismically tested and found to withstand a quake three times larger than the largest temblor believed possible there. And even then the building didn’t collapse so people could’ve gotten out safely.
Or you go to Yemen where an entire city is made from mud, with dozens of seven- and nine-story buildings, not to mention an elaborate palace. Or you go to the United Kingdom and see a ritzy $2 million mud home. Many of these buildings have lasted centuries, and you see people building their own curvy custom homes and you think, “I could do that!”