When viewed against the precast concrete formwork of Harvard’s Gund Hall, Loeb Fellow Anna Heringer’s latest rammed-earth project seems positively confrontational—and that’s the point. The archaic process uses local raw materials such as clay, mud, and gravel to create durable walls. Heringer’s smooth triangular forms smack up against the Graduate School of Design’s 1971 Brutalist facade. Other rough-hewn walls zigzag into an open plaza through monolithic gestures that nudge into, but don’t disrupt, pedestrian traffic on a heretofore-dreary urban corner. Like a less aggressive Richard Serra, the architecture dallies with passersby.
The installation challenges sustainability theories being debated just behind the GSD’s walls. The official title of the sculpture, MudWorks, has been usurped by the unofficial working title of “Mud Hall.” The subversive nom de guerre places the rammed mud, flecked with Boston sea salt, on equal footing with Harvard’s redbrick halls and GSD’s concrete. Heringer’s installation is an argument in layered texture and color that rammed earth is a viable material and should be taken seriously by contemporary architects. Naysayers who argue the material is too labor-intensive are not thinking enough about the laborer, particularly in poorer areas of the globe. “As an architect I can decide on the technology. I can decide who’s getting the profit,” said Heringer, of the work rammed earth gives to local workers. “When I worked in Bangladesh, I immediately saw who was getting the profit. When you buy a bag of cement, that’s gone.”
Tom Stoelker / AN
Iwan Baan (left) and Tom Stoelker / AN (center, right)