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Buildings & Space

Mud Walls

Mud walls, often seen as the poorer relative to stone, have stood the test of time as well, if not better than their stone counterparts. Among the most ancient and famous walls found today are those made of mud. Civilizations that built their fortresses of mud didn’t need great quarries lying nearby or have to cut and transport stone at great effort and cost. A well-built mud wall could last centuries. Earth pounded in a wooden frame could be built in any width, and outlast stone. When a stone wall or building collapsed or was destroyed by an enemy, the remnants would be pulled down and the stones re-used elsewhere. There was nothing to gain in destroying a mud wall, and one can still see today the remnants of the Great Wall of China all the way to Gansu, or the walls that remain on the Tibetan Plateau from the Tangut Empire in the 11th century. Mud was a favorite building material in Tibet and was used for fortifying walls, monasteries and dwellings. The building’s structure was built of wooden beams and pillars, and the walls, as well as the outlying enclosing fences, were made of mud. Today, the use of mud as a building material is declining and Tibetans in rural areas are finding bricks less labor intensive. But a mud building has infinitely more qualities than a cheaply built brick one, is warmer in winter and cooler in summer, though only time will teach this lesson.

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