Our team has been working within the natural building movement for over a decade. While earthen plasters, their materials, and their benefits have long been a part of our own vocabulary, for a vast majority of the population, they are not.
There exists an overarching stigma against using earth as a building material. It is considered a material of the past. It is “dirty.” It denotes “poverty.” Its qualities are not distinctly quantifiable and consistent, the way industrially produced materials are. Yet, no material has stood the test of time as a healthy and beautiful, lasting building material the way earth has, in its best examples seen the world over. The global natural building movement is a product of this understanding, together with a desire to lessen the damaging impact that modern building practices have caused.
Now in its fifth decade, founders and participants of this movement have ingeniously created structures using local materials, which decidedly are not cookie-cutter homes erected by a fossil-fuel driven building system. The aesthetic is often counter to popular architecture’s sharp, angular shapes, favoring instead the curves and gentle undulations of nature’s own architecture. These natural builders, craftspeople, have predominantly relied on attempts, failures, and successes when using earth as a building material.
JEPE sees these efforts as valiant and important. We also see a valiant and important craft in Japan’s plastering tradition, strangled by the stigma of being “old and undesirable” in its homeland, unvalued except in the maintenance of World Heritage Sites and National Treasures. While traditional Japanese architecture is admired the world over, the refined and clean traditional clay walls remain under the radar precisely because of their perfection. Our modern eyes presume to see drywall and paint, not clay and lime. We are convinced that by learning how to build earthen walls and applying earthen finishes as the Japanese do, earthen plasters will prove an appealing and practical choice in all extant and future structures.
Why does that matter? Please click the links below to find out.