What lies beneath

An overview of projects, products and exclusive articles about what lies beneath

Project • By Holcim FoundationParks

Stabilized earth visitors’ center, Mapungubwe National Park

Sophistication through low-tech solutions The stabilized earth visitors’ center is constructed with stabilized earth tiles that were made near the site, rather than fired-clay bricks. The traditional timbrel vaulting, using locally-made pressed soil cement tiles, allows the design to be materialized with minimal formwork and no steel reinforcement. The vaults have been designed in collaboration with John Ochsendorf from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA) and Michael Ramage from the University of Cambridge (UK), using a 600-year old construction system that is both economical and has a low-environmental impact. Timbrel vaulting (or "Catalan vaulting") is being rediscovered as an ecological building technique because it save... More

Project • By StudioInvisibleOffices


StudioInvisible (Wassim Melki, Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot) envisioned this vertically mobile unit for their working spaces. Located in the Hills of Baabdath, Lebanon, the terrain is vastly surrounded by natural elements, including a 400 years old Oak tree, as well as a couple of old demolished farming houses. (shelled during the lebanese civil war) In order to be respectful to the context, and to be esthetically environment-friendly, the architectʼs concept is to create a structure that is only visible when functioning, while it completely disappears when not in use. Architect Wassim Melki Explains : “ The idea of having my studio in this area is almost years old now, and I have designed tens of options for it, in vain, as t... More

Project • By DrorMasterplans

Nurai Island

12 miles off the coast of Abu Dhabi lies the island of Nurai. Dror Benshetrit spent only 5 weeks in coming up with the plan for the island, which plays on the concept of a carpet. Tucked away under the green blanket of grass, the beach-front estates on the island promise the luxury of peace and solitude. The Water Villas were conceived as chandeliers suspended from a structural frame. They are approached by pathways that diverge off a central pier and are arranged corner to corner in such a way as to maximize private views. By camouflaging the built structures by blending them into topography, Dror has created the ultimate balance between the ideal of isolation and material comfort. More

Project • By Deca ArchitecturePrivate Houses


The design of the house is a dual response to the particular topography of the site and to the rural domestication techniques that in the past shaped the raw ‘Cycladic island’ landscape. In the past, dry-rubble stone walls domesticated the land for agricultural purposes and were the most prominent man-made interventions in the landscape. The walls retained earth and transformed a steep topography into a series of arable plateaus. Today, the Cycladic islands are being reshaped by a very different force: the demand for holiday homes. The design uses the precedent of earth-retaining stone walls to create an artificial landscape that is both rural and domestic in use. The site is a natural saddle where two slopes meet. In the Nor... More