To be frank, the building looks as crude as its technology. With its massive, bulging walls of exposed red earth, protruding stalks of straw and unglazed windows, the building would pass for a tribal hall in a Namibian village.
Although the earth structure is indeed ethnic, this is only partly borrowed from African vernacular. It also revives the West Country's own tradition of earth construction, known as cob. The building's designer, Earth House Design, and its building contractor, Back to Earth, are both based in Devon and specialise in cob architecture.
And if liberties have been taken with the shape of a traditional West Country cob building, that is doubtless because Back to Earth comprises two women artists, Jackie Abey and Jill Smallcombe. They set out to design an organic, curved, contemporary building that would be user-friendly, light and airy, low-tech and low-maintenance.
They have also added some salty humour of their own by shaping the building like a generously proportioned woman.
"We've had a lot of fun with the actual design and ended up putting the ladies' loos in the head and the gents' loos in the breasts," says Abey. "Actually, the breasts are larger than we originally planned – so that we could accommodate more loos."
The raw material for the walls was a combination of spoil drawn from a Cornish china clay pit and red clay from a landfill site in Devon. The external walls are up to 700 mm thick and are based on natural stone plinths.
The earth was mixed with straw reinforcement and added in layers without shuttering, tamped down by foot and pared to shape after drying. The roof of corrugated iron sheeting was laid on rafters of larch log thinnings. There is no external render, although the plan is to finish the internal walls in lime plaster once the mud has fully dried out.
Highly unconventional yet traditional, the Eden Project's bus shelter promises to be sustainable and biodegradable at the same time.
Client Eden Project Designer Earth House Design Contractor Back to Earth