Architecture has known to be traditionally obsessed with permanence: a construction that does not stand the test of time can hardly be called an example of good architecture. The most revered pieces are those that have persevered, and withstood- the 1600 year old Iron Pillar near the Qutub Minar, the pyramids of Egypt, the Greek temples of old. And we have watched our greatest architects engaged in eccentric, if egoistic battles against time, aiming for impossible structures that somehow defied the turning of the seasons. Unsurprisingly, the materials that have come to be prized in architecture are those that promote permanence. Marble, granite, and if the base material wasn’t hardy enough, it was always reinforced to create composites that extended its lifetime.
Which is why it seems intuitively disorienting to think about sand as an architectural material. Not only is sand a fickle substance, but it’s very composition is unique: coarse, and grainy, allowing it, at the most, to be used as a filler. With new technology, and the postmodern embrace of impermanence and change, however, all that is changing. Sand not only has a thing or two to teach us about going with the flow, but also has the potential to introduce new dimensions in building, with is unique composition and texture (remember, sand contains a treasure of beautiful things, like silica, and certain gemstones). Here are some of our favorite instances where sand is the unlikely star.
The Re:Build Refugee Camp at Jordan
While the average refugee in many parts of that world, running away from war, dictators and any number of adversities, may spend years stuck in a refugee camp, the refugee camps, themselves, are usually hastily assembled from cheap materials and can barely hold up for a few months. A team of architects from the design firm Small Works, founded by Cameron Sinclair has proposed a unique solution: re-deployable structures that utilize sand and gravel as insulating materials, and can taken down and easily transported. The most efficient feature of these structures- they can be built and taken down by any lay-person inexperienced in building. The design was arrived at in collaboration with Pouya Khazaeli, a local building expert, and Pilosio Building Peace, and uses hollow metal grids which can be filled with sand and gravel to create walls. This cheap solution proves effective in areas which experience extremes of hot storms in the summer and snowstorms in the winter.
Sand Houses in Siwa Oasis, Egypt
The Siwa Oasis region, hidden deep in the middle of the Egyptian desert has a unique pull for architects around the world: it is home to a material called karseef, a mixture of sand, salt and clay that is only found on the shores of the nearby salt lakes. Inhabitants have traditionally used this material to build houses and towns for over 900 years, a practice that is, sadly, dying out because of the rise in concrete constructions. In the desert, building with sand offers obvious advantages for camouflage.
The World’s Tallest Sand Castle
Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik and his students entered the Guinness Book of World Records this year with their monumental sand castle measuring 48 metres and 8 inches. THe castle was built over 9 days in Puri, Odisha.
Sandcastle at Florida
This castle, commissioned by Turkish Airlines, deserves a mention too, as it held the record before the one at Puri was finished. At about 45 metres, the castle is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful things to ever be constructed out sand, with its painstakingly sculpted details.
Designer Nir Mieri, based in Tel Aviv is behind this cutting edge design, which uses sand to create innovative moulds for lights. The sand is poured into moulds lined with glue so that when the glue sets, the moulds can be take out to reveal bucket-shaped light shades that are hosted on a pole. When the LED lights inside the shade are lit, the sandy texture creates a unique glow.
The Stone Spray
The Stone Spray is a 3d printer that uses sand as it base material to create structures and sculptures by using an adhesive that somehow lets the sand retains its original graininess, thereby allowing athem to have a unique texture, and porosity.