Lecture 1. Meanings, Messages, and Materials in African Earthen Architecture

This lecture explores how earth has been conceptualized and
integrated into African thought and architectural practice as material, metaphor, environment, and intervention over time. Some of the first known man-made environments on the African continent were carved out of rock features in the landscape, and from this point of origin, cultures across the continent would proceed to develop a variety of distinctive architectural traditions and material practices that were regularly governed by the availability of specific materials in their environment, namely dirt, clay, and other substances derived from the earth. Students will engage with these structures using cross-disciplinary methodologies ranging from art and architectural history to anthropology and environmental studies to critically analyze the physical and conceptual strategies deployed at these sites over time and space with regards to the material and meaning of earth. In particular, they will explore how environmental material like earth came to signify important socio-political, cultural, and spiritual messages in the architectural landscape.

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