Conference session: « Earthen construction technology » (UISPP 2018, 4-9 June, Paris)

18th UISPP/IUPPS WORLD CONGRESS,  4 – 9 June 2018, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, 12 place du Panthéon, Paris 5è arrondissement

Session IV-5  :  « Earthen construction technology » Friday, 8th June 2018, 8h30-16h

Organiser : Annick Daneels (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)

Session programme.

More info about the conference.

Session abstract

The general theme of the congress, ”Adaptation and sustainability in prehistoric and proto- historic societies confronted to climate change”, offers a perfect context to open a discussion on construction techniques that use earth, a raw material particularly susceptible to climate variations. The cases will not specific have to do with climate change, but will always evaluate the eff of climate on the architecture and the diverse strategies developed by the ancient builders to avoid collapse and weathering, from careful selection of earthen mixes to mechanical reinforcement of walls, from stone or stucco facings to the use of organic additives to stabilize earthen renders, from surface impermeabilization to enhanced drainage techniques, distinct antiseismic techniques, etc.
Though recently revaluated because of its universal value as sustainable, economic and bioclimatic architecture by ICOMOS (with its International Scientific Committee on Earthen Architectural Heritage – ISCEAH) and UNESCO (with the World Heritage Earthen Architecture Programme – WHEAP 2007-2017), the studies have focused on the conservation of existing heritage sites (where extensive excavations are limited because of their protected status) and on the study of vernacular building strategies. Unfortunately, vernacular building is generally geared towards domestic architecture building for and by family units. The knowledge expressed in vernacular architecture does not reflect the architectural and engineering know-how required to achieve the monumental designs of cultures like Mesopotamia, Andes or Mesoamerica that were commandeered and backed by elite political programs. Thus a deepened technological under- standing of the finer constructive techniques of ancient monumental architecture, derived from extensive excavations coupled with mineralogical, chemical and mechanical studies of building materials, will only be achieved through archaeological research.
While fabrication procedures are a common and longstanding topic of research in lithic, ceramic and metallic materials (and in lesser degree in textile and woodcutting), architecture in Pre-and Protohistoric societies has mostly been approached in a descriptive way, with relatively little interest for its technological aspects (more so with earthen architecture as stone). Thus a technological approach is not only a novel way to approach the archaeology of building in earth, with or the social and economical correlates of understanding technological procedures, it will also reveal a corpus of engineering and architectural know-how relevant for both the preservation of earthen heritage sites as the promotion of earthen architecture as a viable and economical alternative for modern building.

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