Mojave mansions from the ground up

By Michael Collins

Los Angeles magazine’s “LA to Z” issue – December 1998

Mud dwelling in Hysperia California

At the California Institute of Earth Arts and Architecture in Hesperia, Iranian-born architect and author Nader Khalili has perfected the “superadobe,” which combines the ancient traditions of earth architecture with futuristic technologies: Pumps fill instant building blocks of sandbags, up to a mile long, with dirt, straw, concrete and recyclables, bonded with barbed wire, not mortar.

The result is a stylish Quonset-like hut that seems perfect for Dr. Seuss’s Snitches and Wonce-lers. Cool in the summer, warm in the winter, the pods have withstood simulated 7.5 earthquakes without a fault.

After six years of petitioning, Cal-Earth received local approval for residential building in January, and Khalili’s current projects include a self-sufficient community for 5,000 adobe-aboded inhabitants in the Santa Barbara community of New Cuyama. If you can’t wait for that, head to Cabo San Lucas, where a Khalili student is listing a luxurious, self-built mud house for $275,000.

And Earth Art isn’t restricted to the Earth: NASA is considering the superadobe for structures on the moon and Mars.