The California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture in Hesperia, CA.
The California Institute of Earth Architecture or Cal-Earth appears like some alien subdivision dropped out from space into one of those ubiquitous cookie-cutter suburban starter home communities in the urbanized southwestern Mojave Desert.
– The greatest costs of rebuilding after the disasters goes to the infrastructure and human shelter.
– The need is ever more urgent to build self-help, emergency shelters which can become sustainable, permanent structures and are more resistant to more disasters.
– The accelerating rate of disasters in the world and the historical increase in the loss of human life and property, must create a sense of urgency for the U.N. and other agencies to pay serious attention to alternative ways of building.
– There is a Sustainable Solution to Human Shelter, based on Timeless Materials (earth, water, air and fire) and Timeless Principles (arches, vaults and domes). Every man and woman should be able to build a shelter for his or her family with these universal elements, almost anywhere on the earth and other planets. These principles, interpreted into the simplest form of building technology have created emergency shelter which can become permanent houses, and which have passed strict tests and building codes. The only missing link is to educate humans how to use these timeless techniques, developed at Cal-Earth Institute, to fit their own culture and environment.
Rumi Dome Portal
This Joshua Tree needed a little Superadobe help.
The Gates of Cal-Earth
Cal-Earth’s Superadobe construction technique was developed by its founder, Iranian-American architect, Nader Khalili.
The Earth One Vaulted tract home prototype exhibits how Khalili’s building technique may be applied to more traditional contemporary homes found throughout SoCal suburbs.
Khalili founded Cal-Earth as a non-profit in 1991 with the philosophy that everyone deserves a sound shelter as a basic human right, that everyone should be able to build a house for him or herself and the best way to do so is using sustainable construction materials readily available such as earth.
As a humanitarian, architect and teacher, Khalili developed the Superadobe building technique incorporating a tubular sandbagging system filled with locally sourced earth that are reinforced with a barbed wire technology and stabilized lime, cement, or asphalt that is locally produced.
Khalili has presented his architectural ideas to NASA as possible lunar shelters and has received awards for his projects from the United Nations.
Khalili also is known for his Geltaftan Earth-and-Fire construction system aka, Ceramic Houses.
Brick Dome Interior
Dwellings can be used temporarily or may be stabilized, waterproofed, and finished with plaster to create a permanent building. Originally from Iran, Khalili’s structures and building techniques are inspired and informed by centuries of earth building found throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Cal-Earth’s coiled Superadobe forms arches, domes, vaults, and apses using local materials are easy and cheap to come by. Overall construction of Superadobe is inexpensive, affordable, and sustainable to build.
Construction techniques may be taught to local laborers in a matter of days providing them with supplemental labor skills.
Aesthetically the dome structures are not only beautiful to view but are also incredibly strong, fire resistant, and heavily insulated from the elements due to the Superadobe construction.
Inside the stained glass window dome.
Cal-Earth’s mission is guided by three principles: (1) shelter is a basic human right, (2) every human being should be able to build a house for him or herself, and (3) the best way to provide shelter for the exponentially increasing human population is by building with earth.
Notice the barbed wire used for stability in this ‘Rice Queen’ adobe.
There’s No Place Like Dome
This Superadobe had a nautical theme.
Great large interior space with no walls or other supporting structures to get in your way.
Even the skylight gets the fish themed treatment.
Frame used in creating a domed structure.
The Rumi Dome was one of the first structures built by Khalili and his students.
He began translating the poems of Jalaluddin Rumi, who was born in 13th century Persia (modern-day Afghanistan).
Once Khalili explains that he was born a Muslim in Iran and his grandmother raised him on Sufi mystics’ poetry, the look of his domes begins to make sense. “My structures are tangible spirituality.”
Rumi’s poetry taught Khalili that earth, water, air and fire are the basic elements of life. For an engineer familiar with desert climates, those elements became mud bricks formed into half-moon-shaped houses left to bake in the sun.
On a hot summer day, the domes stay about 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature, which averages around 115 degrees.
Another vaulted house design with some more creative elements thrown in.
Rumi Dome Glory
I attended a free open house which are held on the first Saturday of every month and are the only time the public is invited onto the property.
Open House Schedule:
10:00 AM — Doors open
10:30 AM — Group Tour of Site
11:30 AM — Lecture given by Dastan Khalili & Sheefteh Khalili along with guest speakers
1:00 PM — Potluck lunch. We encourage you to participate by contributing either a dish (for four to five people), or a minimum donation of $7.
3:00 PM — Site Closes
Doors can be made cheaply by using pallet boards or other low cost materials.
Double Vaulted Dome Side View
Inside one of the hives.
Emergency dome shelters can be made cheaply and quickly and also provide families a sense of security since the windows can be made small enough to avoid unwanted invaders and the doors, which are designed to open inwards, can be easily secured by placing furniture up against it when it’s closed (perfect for when children are left at home while the parents search for food or go to work).
The small holes not only offer protection from the outside but also aid in keeping the dome naturally cool on the inside by cutting down on direct sunlight heating it up and also providing better circulation.
Inside one of the smaller domes.
Khalili’s Persian roots shining through.
Creativity is a must when designing your own dome.
I’ll just stay inside here where it’s cool.
Inside the Eco-Dome which is a small home design of approximately 400 square feet interior space. It consists of a large central dome, surrounded by four smaller niches and a wind-scoop, in a clover leaf pattern.
Inside the Hive
Eco-Dome: “Moon Cocoon”
“Rumi says that we are worth no more than whatever we most fear,” Khalili recalls. “I was afraid of cracks. Then I noticed that nature is filled with cracks. Look at a snake’s skin.” The conclusion was an experiment. Let the dome continue to crack and see how long it lasts. It is now 14 years old and still habitable.
One of the recent workshops created this foundation for an Eco-Dome.
A Dome With A View
Everyone (including the children) on the tour was invited to climb any of the structures exteriors. This was the only structure that actually had a ladder and platform on the roof, you had to free climb everything else.
When Khalili first rented the 7-acre property in 1991 there was nothing around for miles…that’s obviously changed now.
The Power of the Arch
See how easy it is?
Sand Bag Domes
Nader Khalili’s daughter, Sheefteh shares her father’s story with the group prior to the potluck.
Now I just have to buy myself a nice piece of desert property and build myself a village.