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Mud use for Mattancherry church

Kochi-based Wallmakers has designed the St. George’s Orthodox Church in Mattancherry, which was to renovate the first church in Kerala, built in 1615.

Years of negligence and encroachment had left the historic church in shambles. The head of the Christian sect of Kerala (his Holiness Moran Mar Baselious Marthoma Paulose II) approached the firm to rebuild the monument. Mud was extensively used in the project through compressed earth blocks, rammed earth, wattles and daubs. The domes, vaults and arches finally end at the altar blessed by the ‘cross of light’, a concept originally conceived by Ar Tadao Ando, in this case, by earth bricks.

The masons received training by the architect to build with compressed stabilized earthen bricks using the ancient Nubian technology of arch and vault building without extensive shuttering, to create arches, domes and vaults. The concept was reintroduced by the Egyptian architect Ar Hassan Fathy in the 20th century.

Being a sustainable building, producing earth-based bricks consumes four times less energy than country-fired bricks. It also generates four times less carbon emissions compared to its country-fired counterpart. First formulated by the iconic Antoni Gaudi, the chain study method helps to stabilize the right shape of the arches before the actual execution; this was applied to many of Gaudi’s structures and was posthumously discovered by modern engineers.