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Studio Anna Heringer

Biennale Venezia - Mud Works!

© Bruno Klomfar
© Bruno Klomfar
Museen, Galerien
Jahr der Fertigstellung
Material Fassade
Idea and concept of the structure and installation

Anna Heringer, Martin Rauch, Andres Lepik

Earth is more than a building material. The relationship between human beings and this material is as old as humankind—but we almost lost contact. This installation invites an experience of this material in a very intimate way. In our work, one of our primary challenges is convincing clients to believe in the quality of earth: its stability, its haptic treasures, its richness in colors, its positive influence on our body and mind. This is difficult to transmit with pictures. It needs to be touched.

This is why we transformed our exhibition space, with 25 tons of mud, into an immediate experience built in earth, including:

-    a rammed earth floor with a rammed earth bench
-    as rammed earth wall piece as a work of art (Stampflehmbild)
-    mud-casein colors on the walls
-    a sculpture to sit in called “Pepita” (the Italian word for nugget) in Zabur technique, shaped layer by layer using only the hands as a tool.

Where can one find mud in Venice? The city is made of bricks. The factory location and clay source of San Marco - Terreal Italia is located nearby on the mainland, and has a storied history in producing Venice’s most important building material. This time, however, the mud is not fired!

A slow architecture of the senses

The Zabur technique used for shaping the Pepita sculpture is the most simple and direct way of building: shaping architecture by hand. Without formwork, the wet material, in this case comprised of a mix of clay and stones and traditional coggiopesto (recycled bricks) from Venice, is applied in layers of about 15 cm in height. The walls, although 15 – 10cm thin, are load-bearing.
The surface finish of the sculpture is unsealed and thus contributes to a comfortable indoor climate, in particular by balancing the humidity. The shiny surface is achieved with a fine mud plaster, polished by hand at the right moment, the right speed, and pressure.

The rammed earth wall panels were prefabricated in two parts.
10 cm thick formwork was filled with a saturated earthen mixture, layer by layer, and compacted with ramming. The working process is evident, as the physical energy required for compression is visible, similar to the lithogenous process. Through this stark compaction, and eventually through the drying process, the rammed earth wall becomes stiff and non-yielding without requiring any additional substances.
The working process remains visible, the individuality of the project tangible.

The bench and the floor were produced with the same mix as the Pepita, only in a more dry form and with more stones. As such, the graininess of the rammed earth mixture is formulated with a 12 cm thickness and compressed with a vibrating plate compactor, smoothened out, and after it has dried, the surface is treated with Carnauba wax.

The floor is waxed with the natural Carnauba wax.

All elements of the construction are fully recyclable without loss of quality.

Dissemination of Know-How

The construction of this installation was partly linked to a workshop on earthen structures. The TUM Chair Hermann Kaufmann is going to build hospital facilities in Cameroon during the summer semester of 2016. The installation in Venice was a great chance to learn mud building techniques – we anticipate the know-how gained will travel far beyond this Biennale.

We hope that this installation acts as a kind of punctual trigger point, with the ramification of raising the trust in this wonderful material.