Habitat Unit

Seminar WiSe 2022/2023

Christian Gäth, Micha Kretschmann, David Bauer Prof. Anke Hagemann

Urban Earth Blocks
Experiential Transformations of Mineral Waste Streams

Contemporary architectural production requires the replacement of soil in the city. Earth is pushed out of the ground and replaced by foundations, parking spots and subway stations. On the fringes, the excavation material from the cities is deposited in the craters left by sand and gravel mining. The wasteful consumption patterns of our times allow this linear displacement of geogenic minerals without hesitation. We may speak of ‘cheap nature,’ a term coined by Jason Moore, which describes the undervaluing of nature, in which products plundered from the natural environment are priced only for their cost of extraction and transportation. As the acceleration of the climate crisis renders a paradigm shift in our treatment of nature inevitable, we must explore new ways to incentivise a revaluing of ‘cheap nature.’

In cooperation with Bauhaus Earth, an organisation working on researching and demonstrating regenerative solutions for the built environment, this seminar will explore the linear supply chains of mineral building materials. Together, we will track the flow of fresh materials from Brandenburg’s sand- and gravel mines to the city and the return of excavation material from the city to the hinterlands. The first part of the seminar will be taught as reading-based discussion sessions that draw from philosophical approaches to a critical questioning of current consumption and waste management patterns. The first part will conclude with a visit to a large-scale sand mining site.

In the second part of the semester, students will practically engage with circular transformations of excavation material into building materials. We will experiment with soil from different construction sites to understand their suitability as a building material. During the practical phase students are asked to contribute with short presentations on different topics ranging from soil contamination and soil testing to material production and quality control. This practical work will result in the transformation of excavation material into compressed earth blocks that will be demonstrated in a prototype building in Potsdam.

Photo: © Jakob Krauss and Alexander Jerosch-Herold

Download Poster here

Course Information+


Phase 1 (at TU Berlin):
Discussion-based seminar
Tuesdays 4pm to 6pm (2nd of May until 30th of May)

Phase 2 (at Bauhaus Earth, Berlin):
Experiential workshops
Tuesday  10am to 6pm (6th of June until 11th of July)
Attendance: 5 out of 6 meetings required

First Meeting:
2nd of May 2023 (Room tbd)

Letter of Motivation (300-500words + related image of your choice)
including Name, Course of Study and Semester


Anke Hagemann (anke.hagemann@tu-berlin.de)

David Bauer (bauer@tu-berlin.de)

Christian Gäth (gaeth@bauhauserde.org)

Micha Kretschmann (kretschmann@bauhauserde.org)