Students enrolled in the May “minimester” course “A Contemporary Interpretation of Historic Cherokee Architecture” wrap up their work on a sustainable earth structure adjacent to WCU’s Bardo Arts Center.

Students enrolled in a May “minimester” course at Western Carolina University had an opportunity to construct a sustainable earth structure using contemporary hand-building methods and to compare that process to traditional practices used by Cherokee people to build their winter homes.

Thirteen students participated in the course titled “A Contemporary Interpretation of Historic Cherokee Architecture” and taught by Jane Hughes, WCU assistant professor of interior design. The students learned about alternative building methods as they worked to “sculpt the earth into a livable art form,” Hughes said.

The group labored for about 10 days on the structure located adjacent to WCU’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center. They used the California Institute of Earth Architecture’s “SuperAdobe” construction method, which involved primarily the molding of clay from university property, some sand bags and barbed wire, and a minimal use of cement. The structure is intended to demonstrate a means of creating a low-cost and sustainable shelter with a low carbon footprint that can be built with unskilled labor anywhere in the world, Hughes said.

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Originally published June 7, 2018. Written by Randall Holcombe.

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