Terra Firma: NewGrounds

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People observing large stone pillars coming out of the ground.

AAP / Anson Wigner

Terra Firma: NewGrounds is an installation by Architecture Lecturer Marta H. Wisniewska and Regenerative Architecture Lab members Maxwell Rodencal, Project Lead (M.Arch. '23), Julian Helbling (B.Arch. '25), and Jesus Mayen (B.Arch. '26) that demonstrates how an ancient construction technique — rammed earth — can contribute to the decarbonization of the building industry. Nine earthen monoliths, eighteen inches in diameter and eight feet tall, are arranged in a three-by-three matrix. Each cylinder has a slightly different material composition of aggregate (stone/gravel) and lime (naturally occurring alternative to cement). Exposed to the elements over the course of several months, each cylinder is weathering differently, making the various engineered compositions of soil visible. The design concept of cylinders references compressive strength testing methods in structural engineering laboratories, a crucial process in learning about and regulating new and existing materials for structures.

Marta H. Wisniewska is an architect and urban planner whose research and teaching promotes alternative building materials and investigates their applications in local building sectors in developed and developing territories. Wisniewska is a Lecturer at AAP and the Director of the Regenerative Architecture Lab. She is also a faculty fellow at the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and a member of the graduate faculty in the field of architecture.

Funded in part by the Cornell Council for the Arts.

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