Wednesday, March 25, 2009

CHECK IT OUT- - Glorious Mud! by Gus W Van Beek. Ancient and Contemporary Earthen Design.

In "CHECK IT OUT" posts we'll spotlight books on green subjects available at our own San Antonio Public Library. First up is "Glorious Mud" by Gus W. Van Beek with Ora Van Beek. This 500 page book, profusely illustrated with black and white photos, documents the investigations of the former curator for anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History into earth built buildings the world over.

Unlike other books on natural construction this book also looks into the ancient history of earth buildings. This is not a how-to book, it is more of a survey of earth building methods and their history. It might well serve as an inspiration to a modern builder to see the multi-storied mud brick buildings of Yemen or the the rammed earth houses of Germany. To hear that the longest lasting structures of ancient Egypt were made of mud might be give confidence to someone interested in rammed earth building today. Though Mr. Van Beek suggests at one point that perhaps "adobe" would be a more attractive word to use than "mud".

Ora Van Beek, travelling with her husband, was able to gain access to the female only interior quarters in muslim countries which her husband could not, this gives a new insight into daily life in present day Pakistan and elsewhere.

The sustainable building enthusiast will find much to enjoy in this book and will come away with a much broader understanding of the many methods of using earth for building. If only the pictures were in color. Black and white photos do not do justice to the beauty of these buildings.

This book is currently in the New Books section of the Central Library. It was given to the library in honor of Library Foundation board member, Lamar Spencer. Considering the book sells on Amazon for $99.95 checking it out free from the library is quite a bargain. You can even reserve it online.

Glorious mud!; ancient and contemporary earthen design and construction in North Africa, Western Europe, the Near East, and Southwest Asia.
560 pages, Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press (December 28, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0978846001, SBN-13: 978-0978846008

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