Transparent Rammed Earth

Last winter while discussing my thesis ideas with a professor, she stopped the conversation, sat upright, and announced, as myself, “I am Meghan, and I will make transparent rammed earth.”


Transparent Earth
At the time, I was switching from looking at cob to rammed earth because of its inherently more architectural qualities in regards to the modern tradition and discourse (this probably deserves a posting in itself).  I was also holding onto the general ‘ethereal essence’ I enjoy extracting from places, materials, and events in life, and realized a layering of transparency contains a rich vocabulary in producing this sort of effect.  Rammed earth being diametrically opposed to such effects could indeed be considered its beauty, I believe so at least – a massive, solid material that changes silently through the days and weeks with warming and cooling, yet over time degrades little by little back into what it always was – that upon which we live.

So, as an exploration, I wanted to find a way to penetrate a rammed earth wall that allowed light penetration, yet wasn’t the typical aperture treatment – that is, a punched out piece of wall that allows both light and a view.  I am inspired in the design of my latest rammed earth exploration by this idea as well as this artpiece by Karthik Pandian.

Glass pieces to embed
Thankfully I found a great source of free sand, H. Hafner & Sons Inc. in Cincinnati, and had help from Larry at Oakley Paint & Glass who generously donated his time and resources to make me the glass pieces I used.

The whole process was fairly predictable at this point.  The soil seemed a little more clayey than usual, and I had the good sand, which equaled to me trying and yet not knowing until the very end how good it would turn out, as I had problems with clay clumps in a previous iteration.  The sand made all the difference.


Reflective glass, earth, + me
I took a few moments to think out how to best lay out the glass.  I decided I would have two columns of varying amounts of glass pieces and therefore thickness, to see if direct/indirect light was more partial to a certain height.  I still need to do the light studies at night to explore this further.


Finished tamping

So here it is!  I was really pleased with the earth compaction itself, I’ve grown in my understanding of a good mix lately, as I must admit, the compaction was a little difficult this time because the formwork was ‘8″‘ and the tamper was ‘8″,’ so it was snug.


Left side

It turned out though.  I like the lighting effect a lot.  I wish I had staggered the glass more, but hey, maybe next time.  It definitely gets across what I wanted, and I’ll have to take more photos of lighting effects and the skewed vision of looking through the glass.

Here is the link to another project a few friends and I worked on the other day, it was our ‘unofficial’ entry to a competition on how to improve our school office’s hallway.  My classmate and my entry focuses on the issue of lack of love, encouragement, and general good self-confidence within our program: The Infinite Hallway of Assurance.

Also, I have the blessing and pleasure of going to India immediately upon my graduation to work with a non-profit design organization for a few weeks.  If you’re interested in learning more about it or providing a form of support, please visit my other blog, Meghazine, here.