Down to Earth

Posted on March 3, 2010


Last night I attended a talk by Paul Oliver at the RIBA that is part of the most exciting talk series I have seen there for a long time; The Art of Mud Building.

The talk, ‘Down to Earth’, was quite general, a kind of overview, mainly based around West African countries and the information for the most part can be found in his books. The talk was nevertheless inspiring, helped along by fantastic images of various dwellings and towns and I must say that I got a lot from it. The man clearly has a wealth of knowledge that should be tapped. To end the lecture he surmised that, ‘culture is integral to architectural study’ and advised that we must study the people, not just the architecture, of a place. In investigating and working with the vernacular, we should aim to discover what it is the inhabitants need to reach their own architectural and living goals.

It was preceded by a more specific talk by Pierre Maas on Djenne, Mali and it’s mosque. It was fascinating to learn of the destruction and re-birth of the mosque together with the life and constraints of the settlement. It’s easy to see how the architect’s academic career is dedicated to this one place.

The talk as a whole, left me reassured that any time and energy that I invest in this direction is well spent.

This event series has only just begun. For anyone who is interested more information can be found here: