Welcome to this special issue of EarthUSA News, the expanded electronic newsletter on earthbuilding in the United States and beyond. This issue focuses on the upcoming Earth USA 2019 conference, taking place in Santa Fe, NM, October 25-27th, 2019.
In addition to Earth USA 2019 details and how to register, one will find a timely piece on the inaugural Fred Webster Earthbuilding Engineering Prize as well as the regular “Getting the Dirt on …” column featuring Ronald Rael. Professor Rael, the Eva Li Memorial Chair in Architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, will be offering the public keynote at this year’s conference.
Be on the lookout for articles related to important presentations and happenings that occur at Earth USA 2019 in upcoming issues of this newsletter.
The mission of EarthUSA News is to engage those interested and involved in earthen construction; to preserve and promote its cultural, economic, environmental, historical, and social aspects; and to be a source of both timely news and institutional knowledge.
The newsletter further acts as a bridge between the biannual Earth USA conference — the largest conference dedicated to earthbuilding in the United States — as well as an outlet to those involved in complimentary fields and the general public.
As always, we hope not only that you like EarthUSA News, but that you pass it on to colleagues and others who may have an interest in this field. We also welcome your written contributions to it. Contributions, comments, and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
editor, EarthUSA News
Earth USA 2019
Earth USA 2019: Earthbuilding Enthusiasts to Converge Upon Santa Fe Later This Week …
Registration Still Open!
An important bi-annual conference dedicated to earthen construction to take place in Santa Fe, NM, October 25th - 27th
Earth USA 2019, the 10th International Conference on Architecture and Construction with Earthen Materials, will be taking place at the Scottish Rite Center’s Alhambra Theater in Santa Fa, New Mexico, October 25th through 27th.
This conference, which occurs biannually and is among the preeminent conferences in this field, considers any material or method that uses clay as a binder — such as adobe, compressed earthblock, monolithic adobe (cob), and rammed earth block among others.
Earth USA 2019 will certainly be of interest to academicians, architects, practitioners, public policy officials and specialists, as well as the general public who have an interest in earthen construction and all that entails.
Three days of podium and poster presenters include academicians and practitioners from throughout the United States and all over the world and their expertise spans a wide variety of disciplines and diverse subject matters.
The keynote presentation, open to public and occurring late Saturday afternoon, will feature Ronald Rael, the Eva Li Memorial Chair in Architecture at the University of California at Berkeley. His keynote is entitled “Mud Frontiers: Notes from the Borderlands.”
Also of note will be the inaugural presentation of the Fred Webster Earthbuilding Engineering Prize. This prize will be awarded to a student who is working on innovative design or engineering solutions for new construction or preservation projects in the field of earthbuilding.
Other activities include a Friday evening “meet and greet” for all conference attendees sponsored by The Earthbuilders’ Guild and optional walking and bus tours of Santa Fe and beyond.
Architects are eligible for American Institute of Architecture (AIA) continuing education credits for the conference as well as the optional full day bus tour.
The organizer of this conference is Adobe in Action, a New Mexico-based non-profit organization.
For more details on the conference including the conference schedule or to register, check out the Earth USA 2019 website at: www.earthusa.org
Regular Column: Getting the Dirt on ... Ronald Rael
Ronald Rael is Chair of the Department of Architecture and the Eva Li Memorial Chair in Architecture at the University of California at Berkeley.
With interests connecting traditional and indigenous materials to contemporary technologies, he is a noted activist and innovative thinker in fields of borderwall studies and earthen construction. Additionally, Professor Rael has been at the forefront of using 3D printing to construct out of sustainable materials including the earth. Publications of his include Printing Architecture: Innovative Recipes for 3D Printing (2018); Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary (2017); and Earth Architecture (2008).
Professor Rael will be the keynote speaker at Earth USA 2019, the 10th International Conference on Architecture and Construction with Earthen Materials, taking place in Santa Fe, NM, October 25th – 27th. The title of his keynote is “Mud Frontiers: Notes from the Borderlands.”
1. How did you first get interested or involved in earthbuilding?
I grew up in adobe houses and my father was a builder. Since childhood I've participated in renovating and building adobe houses. When in Colorado, in my mother's family’s village, I live in the house my Great Grandfather built — a humble adobe house. I also am working to restore several adobes in the village and in nearby communities in Conejos County Colorado, including some that date to just after the Mexican American war.
2. Where do you find your passion in this field? For example, are you particularly interested in the architectural, community building, cultural, economic, engineering, environmental, regulatory, or sociological aspects of earthbuilding?
My primary interest is in the material itself. There is something about it that resonates with me and is connected to my DNA. I believe that living in earth is fundamental to our being as humans, but many have become disconnected from that relationship we have with living in and making buildings made out of earth.
3. Since the publication of your book, Earth Architecture, what changes or continuities within the field of earthen construction have you witnessed? Where do you see important contributions coming from in the future or likewise where do you see earthbuilding going?
I would like to think that the publication marked an important moment that reinforced the idea that earth was a modern building material, not only a historic material. It has been a great pleasure to see the number of contemporary buildings constructed using the various earthbuilding techniques around the world, from adobe, rammed earth, wattle and daub, and 3D printing, which is what I predicted would be the future of earthen construction back in 2006.
4. What you currently working on?
3D printing mud!
5. Why is it important that the general public become more educated about earthbuilding?
Certainly we live at a time where we should be more conscious of the materials we use in construction for reasons of environmentalism, health, economics — and our global heritage of earthbuilding; especially in a time when we are globally connected, earthbuilding opens the opportunity for everyone on the planet to be aware that our most technologically advanced material, the one we as humans have been refining for the longest amount of time, is right beneath our feet.
Fred Webster Earthbuilding Engineering Prize
The Inaugural Fred Webster Earthbuilding Engineering Prize to be Awarded at Earth USA 2019
A tribute to a passionate and committed leader in the field and an inspiration for younger generations involved in earthbuilding.
At this year’s Earth USA 2019 conference, the Fred Webster Earthbuilding Engineering Prize will be awarded for this first time. This prize, which includes a monetary award as well as a podium slot presenting the winning project, is a tribute to Fred Webster and his important contributions in the field of earthbuilding.
The announcement of this prize notes that it is “targeted to engineering and architecture students worldwide who are working on innovative design and engineering solutions for new construction as well as preservations projects in the earthbuilding field.” Quentin Wilson, director emeritus of Northern New Mexico College's Adobe Construction Program and President of the board of directors of Adobe in Action, affirms, “The Fred Webster Prize is both a tribute to this leader and the work that he pursued as well as an encouragement to younger generations who are following in his path.”
Fred Webster, who passed away in October 2015, was a civil engineer with a Ph.D. from Stanford University. His career spanned more than forty years. Passionate about earthen construction and seismic rehabilitation and preservation of earthen structures, he consulted or worked directly on many important historic buildings including Mission San Miguel in San Miguel, CA; The Castro Adobe in Watson, CA; the Royal Presidio Chapel in Monterey, CA; the Santa Antonio del Rio Colorado Church, in Quesa, NM; the San Miguel Church in Santa Fe, NM; and the Stanton Monastery, in Stanton, TX to name but a few. He also helped write the New Mexico Earthen Buildings code and was involved in revisions of this as well.
Known to his professional colleagues as “Fred” or “Dr. Webster”, he worked with, or was active in, many organizations including The Getty Conservation Institute, Cornerstones, and the Earthbuilders’ Guild. He presented at numerous Earth USA conferences as well as others including Terra 2012 in Lima, Peru.
Wilson notes, “Fred was fully involved in adobe from new design to preservation. He continues to leave us with something to think about, especially with respect to seismic safety. Fred’s legacy lives on and he has left us with homework as we continue to think about and pursue his ideas.”
For Bill Druc, a structural engineer and colleague and friend in the field of earthbuilding and preservation, “Fred Webster was more than a colleague. He was an amazing human being dedicated to earth architecture. He considered himself to be a ‘mud engineer’. Recognized as a leader in the field, he was much more than that. He was a loving and thoughtful husband and friend. He continues to be missed.”
What would Fred Webster think about a prize named after him? Brendan Webster, his widow, mentions, “Four years ago about this time Earth USA was meeting in Santa Fe but without my husband’s physical presence. He was dying. Nevertheless, the members of this group sent him a video which spanned the audience two times with everybody waving and saying “hi” to Fred. I wasn’t with him when this happened, but later in the day he called me to his bedside and said, ‘look at this’, and showed me that little video. For him it was an ‘oh wow’ experience, which is how I think he would regard the Fred Webster prize, given in his name. He was a modest man of few words and ‘oh wow’ was a very big deal.”
Indeed, the Fred Webster Earthbuilding Engineering Prize will be but one way to keep the legacy of this leader in the field of earthbuilding alive as well as inspire others to work on ideas and research that he was passionate about and found timely and important. And “oh wow”, it’s a very big deal!
Call for Contributions
A Call for Submissions to EarthUSA News
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