Adobe, the mud bricks

This article is also available in: Italiano

One of the most underrated materials in the world, with incredible affordability and impressive strength. Adobe was (and still is) one of the materials that most distinguish the Islamic world, giving it a unique and unmistakable beauty.


Adobe is one of the most widely used materials in the history of humanity, so much so that it counts cities such as Çatalhöyük, a town in Anatolia dating back to 7400 BC. . The reason for their widespread use is also due to the extreme simplicity in producing them, which has made them, since the dawn of time, one of the most popular ways to build houses. In fact, adobes are nothing but bricks made of clay, sand and straw, materials that are truly within everyone’s reach.


In addition to the cost-effectiveness, however, the incredible thermal impact of these buildings, the real reason for their success, should be emphasized. The buildings with these bricks are able to insulate the environments very well, allowing cool summers and warm winters, an ideal material for those who live in warm places.

Rains and earthquakes

Absolutely counterproductive, however, for those who live in cool places, due to its incredible fragility in case of rain. Designed for arid places, in fact, the adobe would crumble after a few moments, causing its inhabitants to have to rebuild it shortly after. To date there are also ways to make it completely waterproof, however it tends to be used mostly in territories where this is not essential and cases in this sense are quite rare.

The mosque of Djenné, in Mali, built entirely of bench, a variant of adobe

Also susceptible to earthquakes, it can however be reinforced, thus increasing its resistance to this phenomenon as well. It must be said, however, that to date the most serious damage ever received is caused precisely by the earthquakes which, especially in the last 20 years, have affected several of these areas.

Arg-e Bam

Among the best known cases, from this point of view, there is that of the citadel of Bam, in Iran, until the 2003 earthquake, the largest adobe construction in the world. Erected around 500 BC, it was inhabited until 1850 and then mysteriously abandoned.

Arg-e Bam

The entire area extends for 180,000 m² with immense walls of about 6 meters that defend it from the rest of the outside world. Located on a hill, the city is incredible for the immense urban planning precision and its buildings, destined to last forever. Arg and Bam could then count on a very precise division by classes, allowing each citizen to easily dispose of what his status granted him. Unfortunately, the earthquake heavily damaged the entire citadel, but did not take away from it the unique charm it still expresses today, albeit in a different form.

P.s. Arg and Bam was used as a location for Zurlini’s film “The Desert of the Tartars”. The week dedicated to the environment continues, tomorrow Indonesia’s “insect-based diet“.

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