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Beyond Brick: Innovating In – Situ Clay

Re-blocking Plan sequence. Stevenson, S. Unit 17. 2020.

Sean Stevenson


Unit Choice Award


Gregory Katz, Nico van Loggerenberg




South Africa has extensive clay deposits and is the reason for the country's culture of building with brick, but within brick-making there is a heavy reliance on the burning of coal which harms the environment and human health. Furthermore, bricks are unaffordable and inaccessible to those with lower incomes and specifically those living in informal settlements.

This project looks beyond the brick, and to innovate how clay is used in building. To this end clay is sourced on site, extruded into interlocking forms and layered while wet – extrusions dry in place and on site.

The project proposes the use of the new construction method in informal settlements, specifically settlements located near rivers that are prone to flooding. The outer edges of rivers are a viable source of clay, which can be used to create extrusions and then be built with to incrementally upgrade the settlement. Strategic excavation along the edge of a river can create channels that will store and redirect water in the event of flooding.

This method will provide a valuable, alternative way to build with clay: low-energy, minimal transport, and locally sourced. Skills training, self-sufficiency, and job creation are all possible benefits of this new clay method.