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Rammed earth dome village
Colourful rammed earth domes
Aerial view of colourful rammed earth community Presence in Hormuz

Designed by ZAV Architects, ‘Presence in Hormuz’ is an urban development project Hormus Island in Iran, Formally an historic port in strategic strait of Hurmuz, the Persian Gulf region that controls the shipment of petroleum from the Middle East. Sadly, the local inhabitants never benefitted from the industry, instead used their boats to become involved in illegal trafficking activities.

The project was designed to empower the local community socially, culturally and economically. The colourful rammed earth domes form a multi-purpose cultural residence called Majara, meaning adventure, and were constructed as the second phase of the initiative. The development will be a drawcard for increasing tourism on the island and is home to holiday accommodation, restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, tourist information and reception areas – all made up of interconnected domes forming a community of structures.

Aerial view of colourful earthen domes
Footpaths and internal courtyard in earth dome community

The domes are made from superadobe, which is a form of earthbag construction made well-known by Iranian architect Nader Khalilli. Rammed earth and sand are used to fill very long fabric tubes or bags to form a compressive structure into a beehive or domed shape. The sand was dredged from the Hormuz dock.

Typically each rammed earth dome is approximately 4 meters in diameter and larger structures can be made by grouping several beehives together to form a network. The small scale design of the buildings ensured that the local local craftsmen and unskilled workers could be used in their construction. Today, it is said, they are trained master superadobe masons, providing the community with a skilled workforce.

Based on the knowledge that increasing GDP generates social change, the project’s aims were to:
1. Increase the local economy
2. Set aside a larger portion of the budget to labour costs rather than expensive imported materials. This benefitted the local community by empowering them by offering construction skills training
3. Adaptive and future-proof design that can respond to unpredicted need
4. Using materials and tradespeople and workers from Iran. This helped reduce construction and transportation costs and injected money into the local economy

The concept for the clusters of domes was taken from looking at sand on a granular level. The sand particles in the bags that shape the domes on a micro level are grouped together to make up the entire building on a macro level.

Related project: If you like rounded dome homes, check out the Earthen Dome home by Holistic Progression Designs

Reception lounge rammed earth dome
Pink and blue bedroom in rammed earth dome
Yellow and red loungeroom in domed house

Sustainability specs:
– Superadobe structure made from rammed earth and sand
– Locally sourced materials
– Built by an entirely local workforce
– Future-proof design – can be adapted as required
– Supported the local community by providing training, work and tourism opportunities
– Rammed earth domes

View across harbour to Majara
Girl walking in front of blue rammed earth dome
Curved blue staircase in rammed earth dome
Shadows on round window in rammed earth dome
Courtyard inside rammed earth dome
From the architect:

The architects believe that ‘architecture has the capacity to be a mediator in the middle ground that converges the interests of different groups, from the state and investors to various classes and groups of people. Majara does so in bringing together the owners of land from the neighboring port of Bandar Abbas who organize an annual land-art event in Hormuz, the investors from the capital city Tehran, and the local people of Hormuz as partners in the project’.

Images courtesy of ZAV Architects. Photography by Soroush Majidi, Tahmineh Monzavi and Payman Barkhordari 

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