Connecting people, culture and nature

Catanary Arch

Xochitl, Cuidad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico   2001

As part of our no-concrete or wood roof exploration, we built a Nubian vault out of straw/clay blocks.  The vault shape follows a catanary arch.  The larger rectangular space that was afforded by the vault, made it more attractive than the dome interior that had to be square.  It was constructed in the outskirts of Obregon in an area known as Xochitl, where the “Casas que Cantan” project took place.

We undertook this project before we had learned the problems we encountered on the dome – lack of compressive strength with the straw/clay blocks and the difficulty in finding a dependable weatherproof coating.  Nonetheless, it was a wonderful project watching brothers Emiliano and Teodoro Lopez build it.  We learned an additional lesson that, unlike the dome, which was easy to build, the vault was much more complex and clearly beyond the skills of the average person.  We didn’t continue with our research into vaults as it was all to obvious that it was something that would ultimately be limited to a few highly skilled individuals.

Funds to build this vault was donated to us by the Amaterra Foundation.