Dune: Arenaceous Anti-Desertification Architecture

  • Magnus LarssonEmail author
Part of the Environmental Science and Engineering book series (ESE)


A single grain of sand is almost nothing: a splinter of rock, a miniscule fragment of a geological formation, the residue of a microcosmic event. Myriad grains together, however, become almost everything: mesmerising landscapes, vast deserts, a fluid material capable of being transformed into solid structures, and, ultimately, flourishing cities. In aggregates of sand, interlocking angular quartz grains, we find fascinating forms and emergent patterns; possibilities, potentials, substance. In short, we find a constant unfolding of interactive opportunities (Balmond 2002).


Calcium Carbonate Sand Dune Loose Sand Cement Sand Habitable Space 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author wishes to thank Alex Kaiser and Fredrik Nordbeck for their invaluable assistance in producing the images accompanying this text. Thanks to Steve Hardy and Jonas Lundberg, unit masters of Dip 16, as well as technical tutors John Noel, Wolf Mangelsdorf, and Michael Weinstock, all at the Architectural Association in London. At University College London: Adrian Jones, Claire Cousins, and particularly John Ward. Stefano Ciurli at the University of Bologna. Jason DeJong at University of California at Davis. Jonathan Boxerman for enthusiastic tafoni guidance. Tosin Oshinowo and Papa Omotayo in Nigeria. Geoff Manaugh at Bldgblog. Chris Anderson and Bruno Giussani at TED. Steve Hardy and Stefano Ciurli, again, for generously agreeing to referee this chapter. And finally Madelaine Levy, the most vigilant and occasionally acerbic editor on the planet, for tirelessly supporting the seemingly impossible. Any remaining errors and omissions are, of course, my own.


  1. Adeel Z, Bogardi J, Braeuel C, Chasek P, Niamir-Fuller M, Gabriels D, King C, Knabe F, Kowsar A, Salem B, Schaaf T, Shepherd G, Thomas R (2007) Overcoming one of the greatest environmental challenges of our times: re-thinking policies to cope with desertification. In: A policy brief based on the joint international conference: desertification and the international policy imperative, Algiers, Algeria, 17–19 December 2006Google Scholar
  2. African Union (2006) Launching of the Green Wall Sahara Programme. Division of communication and information, press release 6. Viewed 8 April 2010
  3. AU/CEN-SAD (2009) Plan of action for the implementation of the Great Green Wall of the Sahara and Sahel Initiative. Draft for submission to the AU Executive Council. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1–3 February 2009Google Scholar
  4. Bagnold RA (1941) The physics of blown sand and desert dunes. Methuen, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Bak P (1996) How nature works: the science of self-organised criticality. Copernicus Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Balmond C (2002) Informal. Prestel, London, p 119Google Scholar
  7. Balzac H (1830) A passion in the desert. English translation appeared in The Strand Magazine, February, 1891, 1:2. Viewed 8 April, 2010
  8. Borges JL (1974) Fragments from an “Apocryphal Gospel”, from the collection “In Praise of Darkness”, Dutton, New York. Original quote: “Nada se construye sobre piedra; todo se construye sobre arena, pero debemos construir como si la arena fuese piedra.”Google Scholar
  9. Boxerman JZ (2009) Viewed 8 April 2010
  10. Burke M, Miguel E, Satyanath S, Dykema J, Lobell D (2009) Warming increases risk of civil war in Africa. PNAS 106:20670–20674CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Burns WC (1995) The international convention to combat desertification: drawing a line in the sand? Mich J Int Law Mich 16:831Google Scholar
  12. Campbell-Purdie W (1967) Woman against the desert. Gollancz, LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. Chilton J (2000) Heinz Isler. The Engineer’s Contribution to Contemporary Architecture series: RIBA Publications/Thomas Telford, London, pp 20–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. DeJong JT (2008), private communication, 12 March 2008Google Scholar
  15. DeJong JT, Fritzges MB, Nüsslein K (2006) Microbially induced cementation to control sand response to undrained shear. J Geotech Geoenviron Eng 132:1381–1392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dell’Amore C (2009) Africa-wide “Great Green Wall” to Halt Sahara’s Spread? National Geographic News, 28 December 2009. Viewed 8 April 2010
  17. Desanker PV (2002) The impact of climate change of life in Africa: climate change and vulnerability in Africa. WorldWide Fund for Nature, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  18. Desanker PV, Magadza C (2001) Africa. In: Adaptation Vulnerability, McCarthy JJ et al (eds) Climate change 2001: impacts. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 487–531Google Scholar
  19. Dollo M, Sen P (2007) Afforestation: an option for combating desertification. Arunachal Times 19(12):2Google Scholar
  20. Ezigbo O (2009) Nigeria: Desertification—country loses 600 m of land mass yearly. Viewed 8 April 2010
  21. Fisher P (2000) Fuzzy Logic. In: Openshaw S, Abrahart R (eds) Geocomputation. Taylor & Francis, London, pp 162–163Google Scholar
  22. Fisman R, Miguel E (2008) Economic gangsters–corruption, violence and the poverty of nations. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  23. Gibson W (1996) Idoru. Viking Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Gibson W (1999) The Science in science fiction. Radio interview with William Gibson and Anne Simon on NPR. 30 November 1999, timecode 11:55. Viewed 8 April 2010
  25. Gill ED, Segnit ER, McNeill NH (1981) Rate of Formation of Honeycomb Weathering Features (Small Scale Tafoni) on the Otway Coast, S.E. Australia. Proc Roy Soc Vic 92:149–154Google Scholar
  26. Grainger A (1990) The threatening desert–controlling desertification. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  27. Grove AT (1977) Desertification. Prog Phys Geogr 1:296–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hall P, Bierut M, Kalman T, Andersen K, Heller S, Poynor R (1998) Tibor Kalman: perverse optimist. Princeton Architectural Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Hare FK (1983) Climate and desertification–a revised analysis. World climate applications programme report no. 44. World Meteorological Organization/UNEP, NairobiGoogle Scholar
  30. Hare FK (1984) Recent climatic experiences in the arid and semi-arid lands. Desertif Control Bull 10:15–22Google Scholar
  31. Harkes MP, van Paassen LA, Booster JL, Whiffin VS, van Loosdrecht CM (2010) Fixation and distribution of bacterial activity in sand to induce carbonate precipitation for ground reinforcement. Ecol Eng 36(2):112–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hejl E (2005) A pictorial study of Tafoni development from the 2nd Millennium BC. Geomorphology 64:87–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Heyman J (1995) The Stone Skeleton–Structural Engineering of Masonry Architecture. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p 24Google Scholar
  34. Hulme M (2001) Climatic perspectives on Sahelian desiccation: 1973–1998. Glob Environ Chang 11(1):19–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hurt RD (1995) Forestry on the Great Plains, 1902–1942. Lecture presented in 1995 at Kansas State University; Viewed 8 April 2010
  36. IPCC (2007a) Climate change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the IPCC. Viewed 8 April 2010
  37. IPCC (2007b) Climate change 2007: mitigation of climate change. Contribution of working group III to the fourth assessment report of the IPCC. Viewed 8 April 2010
  38. Ismail MA, Joer HA, Randolph MF, Kucharski E (1999a) Cementation of porous materials using calcite precipitation. University of Western Australia, Geomechanics Group, Geotech. Rep. G1422Google Scholar
  39. Ismail MA, Joer HA, Randolph MF, Kucharski E (1999b) CIPS, a novel cementing technique for soils. University of Western Australia, Geomechanics Group, Geotech. Rep. G1406Google Scholar
  40. Jauffret S, Woodfine A (2009) Scope and pre-feasibility study on the Great Green Wall for the Saharan and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI). Hernel Hempstead, HertfordshireGoogle Scholar
  41. Johnston A (1999) William Gibson: all tomorrow’s parties: waiting for the man. Spike magazine, August 1999. Viewed 8 April 2010
  42. Kelly K (2007) Everything that doesn’t work yet. Viewed 8 April 2010
  43. Keys D (2004) Kingdom of the sands. Archeology 57(2):24–29Google Scholar
  44. King FH (1911) Farmers of forty centuries: or, permanent agriculture in China, Korea and Japan. Madison, Wisconsin.
  45. Koechlin J (1997) Ecological conditions and degradation factors in the Sahel. In: Raynaut C, Grégoire E (eds) Societies and nature in the Sahel. Routledge, London, p 12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Koolhaas R (1995) S, M, L, XL (2nd edition 1998). The Monacelli Press, New York, pp 2–21Google Scholar
  47. Krech S, McNeill JR, Merchant C (eds)(2004) Russia and the Soviet Union. Encyclopedia of world environmental history. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  48. Le Metayer-Levrel G, Castanier S, Orial G, Loubiere JF, Perthuisot JP (1999) Applications of bacterial carbonatogenesis to the protection and regeneration of limestones in buildings and historic patrimony. Sediment Geol 126:25–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lucas G (1977) Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox, 25 May 1977Google Scholar
  50. Manaugh G (2009) Sand/Stone. Blog entry, Bldgblog, April 2009. Viewed 8 April 2010
  51. Martin M (2004) Deserts of the Earth. Thames & Hudson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  52. Middleton N, Thomas D (eds) (1997) World atlas of desertification. Arnold, Hodder Headline plc, LondonGoogle Scholar
  53. Mitchell JK, Santamarina JC (2005) Biological considerations in geotechnical engineering. J Geotech Geoenviron Eng 131(10):1222–1233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Monbiot G (2007) Heat–how we can stop the planet burning. Penguin, London, pp 105–107Google Scholar
  55. Nemati M, Voordouw G (2003) Modification of porous media permeability, using calcium carbonate produced enzymatically in situ. Enzyme Microbiol Technol 33:635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Pettijohn FJ, Potter PE, Siever R (1987) Sand and Sandstone, 2nd edn. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Pimentel D, Harvey C, Resosudarmo P, Sinclair K, Kurz D, McNair M, Crist S, Shpritz L, Fitton L, Saffouri R, Blair R (1995) Environmental and economic costs of soil erosion and conservation benefits. Science 267:1117–1123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Reuters (2010) Visionary African creative: Ozwald Boateng Announces Cross Sahara Railway. Video clip, Reuters, 5 March 2010. Viewed 8 April 2010
  59. Spawforth T (2006) The complete greek temples. Thames & Hudson, London, pp 145–146Google Scholar
  60. St. Barbe Baker R (1944) I planted trees. Lutterworth Press, London, RedhillGoogle Scholar
  61. Stern N (2007) The economics of climate change. The stern review. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  62. Takahashi G (2006) Aggregates 03. In: Hensel M, Menges A (eds) Morpho-ecologies. Architectural Association, London, pp 286–295Google Scholar
  63. The Engineer (2007) Editorial, bacteria help protect from quakes. 23 February 2007. Viewed 8 April 2010
  64. Time (2007) Mighty microbe. The best inventions of 2007. November 2007.,28804,1677329_1678027_1677996,00.html. Viewed 8 April 2010
  65. Twilley N (2009) The Great Green Saharan Wall Redux. Edible geography. Blog entry. 31 December, 2009. Viewed 8 April 2010
  66. United Nations (1977) Draft Plan of action to combat desertification. UN conference on desertification, Nairobi, 29 August–9 September 1977, Document A/CONF.74/L36, UNEP, NairobiGoogle Scholar
  67. United Nations Conference on Desertification (UNCOD) (1978) Round-up, plan of action and resolutions. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  68. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2007) World population prospects: the 2006 revision, highlights, working paper no. ESA/P/WP.202Google Scholar
  69. van Paassen LA, Daza CM, Staal M, Sorokin DY, van der Zon W, van Loosdrecht MCM (2010) Potential soil reinforcement by biological denitrification. Ecol Eng 36:168–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Weinstock M (2010) The architecture of emergence—the evolution of form in nature and civilisation. Wiley, Chichester, pp 81–87Google Scholar
  71. Welland M (2009a) Sand–the never-ending story. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  72. Welland M (2009b) Sandstone-making microbes, Tafoni: and an extraordinary design idea. Blog entry, Through the Sandglass, 29 April 2009. Viewed 8 April 2010
  73. Whiffin VS, van Paassen LA, Harkes MP (2007) Microbial carbonate precipitation as a soil improvement technique. Geomicrobiol J 24:417–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Architectural AssociationLondonUK

Personalised recommendations