In architecture, a building method employing sun-dried earth bricks; also the individual bricks. The use of earth bricks and the construction of walls by enclosing earth within moulds (pisé de terre) are the two principal methods of raw-earth building. The techniques are commonly found in Spain, Latin America, and the southwestern USA.
Jericho is the site of the earliest evidence of building in sun-dried mud bricks, dating from the 8th millennium BC. Firing bricks was not practised until the 3rd millennium BC, and then only occasionally because it was costly in terms of fuel.
The world's largest raw-earth building is the Great Mosque in Djenne, Mali, built 1907. The Great Wall of China is largely constructed of earth; whole cities of mud construction exist throughout the Middle East and North Africa – for example, San`a in Yemen and Yazd in Iran – and it remains a vigorous vernacular tradition in these areas.
A variation of it is found as cob (a mixture of clay and chopped straw) in Devon, England, and in the pueblos of North America.
The Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy was an influential advocate of raw-earth building. Between 1945 and 1948 he built the village of New Gournia in Egypt for 7,000 inhabitants, and demonstrated the value of adobe material in helping to solve the housing problems of the developing world. Recent years have seen a revival of interest in the technique and a number of schemes have been built. Examples are La Luz new town, USA, 1967–73 by Antoine Predock (1936– ) and Wissa Wassef Arts Centre, Harrania, Egypt, 1952 by Ramses Wissa Wassef.