As the necessity for sustainable construction pushes to the forefront, the architectural landscape has begun to embrace and improve upon ancient building techniques. Earth constructions are becoming particularly popular in the residential market due to their local sourcing, unique appearance, indoor air quality, and high R-values. In Portugal, ancient earthen construction methods such as rammed earth and stone cob are being artfully adapted for contemporary use.

Contemporary Use of Rammed Earth | Earth Constructions

An overview of Earth Constructions in Portugal - Sheet4
Casa Da Vinha slated wood and woven attached pergola creates cooling shade along the exterior of the estate_©João Morgado.jpg

Today, rammed earth in Portugal is utilized in two ways: rehabilitation and reinvention.

The Alentejo coast is speckled with earthen farm buildings called Montes (Marques, Lima, and Vale, 2014). The insulative qualities of the rammed earth’s thermal mass made these small structures perfect for coastal Portugal’s climatic swings. Other factors, such as low population density and resource scarcity made these rammed earth constructions a staple of Alentejo construction culture.

An overview of Earth Constructions in Portugal - Sheet5
Casa Da Vinha exterior rammed earth exposed in the interior like an artwork _©João Morgado.jpg

Once viewed as a decaying architectural form, eco-conscious architects such as Henrique Shreck have reinvigorated interests in this rammed-earth construction while demonstrating the historic necessity of rehabilitation. This collectivized back-to-the-roots architectural practice has revitalized historic structures, improved upon materials, and aided the path towards modernized earth constructions in Portugal.  Marques, Lima, and Vale detail this progression beautifully in their report for the 40th IAHS World Congress on Housing.

An overview of Earth Constructions in Portugal - Sheet6
Casa Da Vinha masonry extrusion _©João Morgado.jpg

In terms of reinvention, the contemporary use of earth structures marries the intricacies of modern technology with the simplicity of ancient rammed earth construction. The Portuguese architectural firm Blaanc’s Casa Da Vinha is a stunning contemporary rendition of rammed earth architecture. 

Fittingly, located adjacent to a cork oak forest on a family vineyard, the estate consists of three distinct rectangular extrusions: two clean plastered masonries, and one sandwich of rammed earth. The masonry portions house the private spaces creating a nest of seclusion and serenity. 

An overview of Earth Constructions in Portugal - Sheet7
Casa Da Vinha Living Space Interior_©João Morgado.jpg

The rammed earth exterior of the third extrusion bleeds into the interior of the living spaces, creating an intrigue that invites guests into the home’s public spaces. Unlike traditional rammed earth architecture, this structure makes use of modern lines to form a contemporary style that feels reminiscent of the Farnsworth House by Mies Van de Rohe.

Earthships and the Future of Earth-itecture

When speaking of earthen architecture, it’d be negligent not to mention Earthships, earthbag construction, and 3-D printed earth. 

An overview of Earth Constructions in Portugal - Sheet8
Earthship Exterior_©Earthship Global.jpg

Created by architect Michael Reynolds, earth ship constructions combine ancient and rammed earth methods, passive biotecture, and waste products to create a living interior environment that utilizes its resources, much like a ship.

An overview of Earth Constructions in Portugal - Sheet9
Euro Earthship Global Greenhouse Entry_©Earthship Global.jpg

These imaginative structures use earth-packed tires as thermal mass to insulate the structure to superior quality while front-facing greenhouses regulate the interior temperature, grow life-sustaining food, and filter water.

The Earthship construction style works brilliantly in warm climates however the growth of the architectural style has been somewhat thwarted by legislation that has yet to match the pace of the sustainable architectural form. This schism has inevitably slowed the adoption rate of these solar-powered, upcycled structures. However, this style is being adopted globally in markets, such as France, the southern United States, Germany, and Honduras. Portugal’s climate is the perfect host for the style of architecture and like historic rammed earth and its contemporary counterpart, Earthship models will begin to occupy space in this market.

An overview of Earth Constructions in Portugal - Sheet10
Earth-Packed Tires_©Earthship Global.jpg

 The movement has already taken shape with the Earthship-inspired constructions, such as the Mini Earthship at Quinta Ecosophia, and the growing Earthship Biotecture community. 

An overview of Earth Constructions in Portugal - Sheet11
Earthbag Construction_©The Mud Home.jpg

As the name implies Earthbag construction utilizes plastic vestibules of earth packed stacked, arranged, and covered to form thick thermal mass walls. Stitched polypropylene bags are filled with topsoil pounded, levelled, plastered and waterproofed. The method makes brilliant use of the surrounding landscape but could go further in finding an alternative to the polypropylene bagging method.

TECLA 3D-Printed House_©Iago Corazza.jpg

One of the major drawbacks of earth structures is the costly labour intensity. Packing earth is time-consuming and requires quite a bit of muscle for hire. This is an issue that 3-D printed Earth construction eliminates. The insulative properties of 3-D printed earth construction are similar to that of traditional rammed earth. Though limited by the scale of the printer canvas, the machine can print indefinitely without the labour or time cost associated with packing earth.

Ultimately, modern construction is in need of a shift. Wood is becoming scarce, and soil is abundant. To create architectural solutions for the global crime crisis, the built environment must look to its history and innovate. When combined with modern technology, like 3-D printed earth constructions, its minimal impact, vernacular use of local resources, and passive energy efficiencies could become an integral approach to solving the global climate housing crisis.

A Brief History of Earth Constructions Portugal | Earth Constructions

17th-century rammed earth qasbah in the Skoura palm grove in Morocco_©Amerhidil Qasbah,Wiki Commons.jpg?w=999
17th-century rammed earth qasbah in the Skoura palm grove in Morocco_©Amerhidil Qasbah,Wiki Commons.jpg

Building with the earth is not a new concept. Stacking stones, compressing dirt, and piling wood is the ancestral history of modern architecture. Before materials could be shipped, they were gathered. As a result, ancient construction was often a vernacular reflection of its environment. From dust and soil, the ancestors shaped intricate structures that could last centuries with minimal impact on the surrounding landscape. 

Greek & Phoenician Colonization_©Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike, World History Encyclopedia.jpg?w=999
Greek & Phoenician Colonization_©Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike, World History Encyclopedia.jpg

Rammed earth construction specifically can be witnessed from fortresses in Northern Africa to the Great Wall of China. In Portugal, this construction style is known as Taipa (A Quinta, n.d.) – likely a derivative of the Portuguese colonized island in the Macau region of China. The building style originated from Phoenicia off the modern coast of Syria before filtering through trade into European nations where it became commonplace amongst the Romans.

Rammed Earth Wall Closeup at Casa Da Vinha _©João Morgado.jpg?w=999
Rammed Earth Wall Closeup at Casa Da Vinha _©João Morgado.jpg

Traditionally, rammed earth structures are composed by layering and compressing raw material between wooden forms. In Portugal, this construction method was prevalent in the coastal region of Alentejo.

Reference list:

A Quinta (n.d.). Eco construction. [online] A Quinta da Lage. Available at: [Accessed 27 Nov. 2022].

Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias (2010). Taipa (Portuguese Building Material). [online] Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias. Available at: [Accessed 27 Nov. 2022].

ArchDaily (2021). TECLA Technology and Clay 3D Printed House / Mario Cucinella Architects. [online] ArchDaily. Available at:

Blaanc Via ArchDaily (2016). Vineyard House / Blaanc. [online] ArchDaily. Available at:

Douglas Lanphier Wheeler and Livermore, H.V. (2019). Portugal – Climate. In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at:

Geiger, O. (2010). Step-by-Step Earthbag Building. [online] Instructables. Available at:

Historic Rammed Earth (2010). Portugal. [online] Historic Rammed Earth. Available at: [Accessed 27 Nov. 2022].

M, K. (2021). TECLA 3D-Printed Home by Mario Cucinella Architects and WASP. [online] Dwell. Available at: [Accessed 27 Nov. 2022].

Mairs, J. (2016). Blaanc uses rammed earth for house in Portuguese vineyard. [online] Dezeen. Available at: [Accessed 27 Nov. 2022].

Marques, J., Lima, P. and Vale, C. (2014). Contemporary Use of Rammed Earth in Portugal, The Case of Alentejo Coast. IAHS World Congress on Housing, Sustainable Housing Construction.

Mileto, C., López-Manzanares, F.V., Cristini, V. and Soriano, L.G. (2021). Earthen architecture in the Iberian Peninsula: a portrait of vulnerability, sustainability and conservation. Built Heritage, 5(1). doi:10.1186/s43238-021-00043-9.

Ploscariu, I. (2017). Taipa Village, Macau. [online] WorldAtlas. Available at: [Accessed 27 Nov. 2022].

Rammed Earth Enterprises (2019). How much does Rammed Earth cost? [online] Rammed Earth Enterprises. Available at:

Reynolds, M. (2014). Earthship Biotecture michael reynolds. [online] Earthship Biotecture michael reynolds. Available at:

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica (2019). Phoenicia | Definition, Location, History, Religion, & Facts. In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at:


Tinia Marlena is a talented, young Interior Architect, Interdisciplinary Sustainability Consultant, and Storyteller. Her words uncannily reach into the theoretical to manifest seemingly tangible realities. She is a passionate environmentalist who creatively weaves her diverse aptitudes into a signature blend of imagination and vision. In her free time, she enjoys exploring mediums of creative movement and designing eco-conscious compact living environments.