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The Earthen Architecture Initiative (EAI) seeks to further the conservation of earthen architecture through international activities and institutional partnerships, including:

Our earthen architectural heritage is rich and complex. A ubiquitous form of construction, earthen architecture appears in ancient archaeological sites as well as in modern buildings, in large complexes and historic centers, and in individual structures and decorated surfaces. At microscopic and macroscopic levels—and on physical and social planes—earthen architecture is vastly varied. Thus a range of disciplines in study, research, and practice are associated with its conservation.

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The field of earthen architecture has grown tremendously in recent decades. This development is reflected in a series of international conferences, the first in 1972 in Iran and the latest in Mali in 2008, devoted to the preservation of earthen architecture. With each conference, the number of participants has increased along with their geographic and professional diversity. Academics, scientists, architects and conservation practitioners, united by their interest in earthen architecture, now convene every few years to discuss chemistry, soil science, seismology, hydrology, structural engineering, archaeology, sociology, sustainability, and more, as they pertain to earthen architectural heritage.

As the exchange of ideas within the field has expanded, so have opportunities for collaboration. In 1994 the Getty Conservation Institute joined the Gaia Project (a partnership of CRATerre-EAG and ICCROM) to promote the conservation of earthen architecture through the first Pan-American course on the subject. Three years later, capitalizing on their independent and shared experiences in earthen architecture education, research, and field projects, the three institutions formed Project Terra. Although the Project Terra partnership culminated in 2006, its long-term initiatives and goals have continued under the programs of the individual partner institutions.

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Advancing the discipline of earthen conservation is the organizing principle for all of the Earthen Architecture Initiative's activities—which include model projects that improve the way conservation interventions are carried out in different parts of the world, pursuing research that addresses unanswered questions in the field of earthen conservation, and disseminating information regarding appropriate conservation interventions on historic buildings, settlements, and archaeological sites composed of earthen materials.

The GCI supports the field of earthen architecture—as it matures from a special interest topic into a distinct discipline and science—through a vigorous program that includes laboratory research, field projects, training, conferences, and publications focused on earthen architecture conservation. Since 2006 the EAI has organized and participated in a series of meetings with experts in the field, with the ultimate objective of identifying key areas for project research and implementation.

Last updated: January 2011