With Dirt And A Vision, Palestinian Architects Break The Mold

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With Dirt And A Vision, Palestinian Architects Break The Mold
ShamsArd, a Palestinian architecture firm, uses packed earth to construct its environmentally friendly homes.

The city of Jericho sits in the hot, flat Jordan Valley down the hill from Jerusalem. Jericho has bragging rights as one of the oldest towns on Earth. But one of its newest homes looks like it might have arrived from outer space.

Ahmad Daoud hired a firm of young Palestinian architects to build this house. Like Jericho’s original homes, it is built of dirt. This one has a contemporary twist, though: It’s constructed with earth compacted in bags that are then stacked and plastered over.

Daoud loves the domed rooms, the nod to the past and the environmental advantages.

“It’s an environmentally friendly house,” he says. “I can tear it down and nothing will remain. In the summer, I don’t need air conditioning, and in the winter, I don’t need heat.”

Amid the dust, palms and the square, concrete houses of Jericho, Daoud’s home stands out. Daoud says everybody has something to say about it.

“A lot of neighbors say it’s nice to look at but not to live in,” he says.

Some neighbors have asked him whether it’s a house or some kind of tourist attraction. Others say he’ll never sell it, or wonder how he could add a floor for his children — a common Palestinian practice — on top of domes. []