Those who travel across villages to watch wall constructions in ordinary houses would realise an amazing fact. Majority of them are built with mud as the primary construction material and the comparison between different villages may end at that broad note, for the specificity of wall construction may vary between places.
Across the centuries, local residents would have understood the nature of mud, its strengths and weaknesses, what additives to add or not to add and such other ideas of wisdom. Accordingly, in mud walls we may see differently coloured clay lumps, shreds of broken pottery, fine chopped dried hay, small pebbles carefully sized or dry mud wrapped around in mud slurry. While we can see the final composition even today, we are not a witness to the actual building of the wall itself, which is unfortunate considering lack of documentation.
Construction practices using mud continue to be in vogue in rural areas, though sadly, it is on a decline. Burnt bricks and cement blocks have been steadily edging them out. However, mud construction has had a remarkable revival in modern architecture too, thanks to groups like Mrinmayee, Auroville, and Hunnarshaala and individuals like Didi Contractor, Chitra Vishwanath, and Eugene Pandala.
It is difficult to name all those responsible, but thanks to such efforts, mud as the original building material has come to stay in many centres. The fact that this option has not yet gained ground in most parts of new India, of course, is a matter of concern. Yet, it is heartening to see how individuals are now trying to explore new avenues within mud architecture.
Madhusudan applied his inventive mind to convert the mud block making press from manual mode to electric operated one, thus achieving uniform density, higher strength and faster production.
He went on to fabricate the machine to make mud blocks for his own house. Chandragiri opted to create rammed earth walls with tall vertical moulds, compared to the more popular smaller moulds. These taller moulds enable ramming mud in layers of one foot each after placing two feet loose mud, reducing visible joints up to lintel level. Also, the vulnerability of alignment problems in shifting the moulds is reduced in this method.
Mrinmayee started mass producing stabilised soil cement blocks (SCB), as the mud blocks are technically called, in a power operated press for supplying to any parts of the city.
Making the blocks at site was often facing issues of raw material supply, space shortage, lack of standardisation and such other issues. Good Earth attempted adding coloured mud to the local mud to change the final appearance of the block from dull mud look to a brighter one.
All this goes to prove that even while we are reviving a forgotten option, we need not settle down with the same old option. The idea from the past can be applied in the present times and can be further developed for future.