Domed, desert eco-dwellings are built of organic papier-mâché
Illinois-based design studio i/thee has teamed up with Los Angeles firm Roundhouse to create Agg Hab — short for Aggregate Habitat — an experimental eco-dwelling built from papier-mâché. The project, which the designers say is possibly the world’s largest self-supporting papier-mâché structure, functions as a prototype for a semi-subterranean house integrated into the desert of Clarendon, Texas. Made with nearly 200 liters of glue and 270 pounds of paper, Agg Hab measures over 20 feet (6 meters) in length and 8 feet (2.5 meters) wide and stands at a height of 4.5 feet (1.4 meters).
Developed as part of an exercise to push the possibilities of construction with as few resources as possible, Agg Hab follows a simple design and construction process that began with the excavation of two “mirrored convexo-concave” holes, each 4.5 feet deep. The designers then cast each hole with multiple layers of organic papier-mâché mixture — comprising recycled paper and non-toxic glue — to create dome-shaped shells spanning over 20 feet in length. The 4-millimeter-thick shells were flipped over and set atop the holes to create the roof of the semi-subterranean dwelling.
“Together, the holes, matched with their respective shells, create a semi-subterranean house in which the negative and positive expressions of a series of excavated forms take on a reciprocal relationship to create multiple habitable spaces,” the designers explained. “The result of this process is a formal and phenomenal experience derived from the earth itself. There are no perfect lines or manufactured shapes or colors in the design. Instead, the formal language of the habitat follows cues from those found in nature: the contours of the domes perfectly matching those of the excavated dirt; the surface of the paper stained with a plethora of natural, earthen tones.”
Large circular openings have been cut into parts of the papier-mâché shells to let in light and views of the desert. The Agg Hab eco-dwelling serves as a prototype for a larger project the designers are working on.