Earthen architecture is one of the most original and powerful expressions of our ability to create a built environment with readily available resources.
It includes a great variety of structures, ranging from mosques, palaces and granaries, to historic city centres, cultural landscapes and archaeological sites. Its cultural importance throughout the world is evident and has led to its consideration as a common heritage of humankind, therefore deserving protection and conservation by the international community. In 2011, over 10% of the World Heritage properties incorporate earthen structures. The availability and economic quality of the material mean it bears great potential to contribute to poverty alleviation and sustainable development.
However, increasingly threatened by natural and human impacts (e.g. floods and earthquakes, industrialization, urbanization, modern building technologies, disappearance of traditional conservation practices, etc.) earthen structures deserve particular attention in terms of conservation and maintenance; about ¼ of the sites inscribed on the World Heritage List in Danger are earthen sites.
The World Heritage Programme on Earthen Architecture (WHEAP) aims for the improvement of the state of conservation and management of earthen architecture sites worldwide. Pilot projects on earthen architectural sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, or included in States Parties’ Tentative Lists, will help identify best practices and set examples for the development and dissemination of appropriate methods and techniques in conservation, management, and capacity building. Scientific research will further the endeavor to ameliorate know-how in the field. Expected results include a better understanding of the problems facing earthen architecture, the development of policies favoring its conservation, the definition of practical guidelines and the organization of training and awareness activities, particularly in local communities through workshops, exhibitions, conferences and technical publications to raise the recognition of earthen architecture, as well as the creation of an active global network for the exchange of information and experience.
At its 31st session (New Zealand, 2007), the World Heritage Committee approved the initiation of the integrated World Heritage Programme on Earthen Architecture (2007-2017) (decision 31 COM 21C, working document 31 COM 21C). Donors and States Parties were invited to provide financial support for the implementation of the activities, structured in four phases and progressively expanding over the globe. Accordingly, the preparatory phase concluded in 2008, is followed by three phases, each focusing on two regions or sub regions: Phase 2 (2009-2011) focuses on Africa and the Arab States, Phase 3 (2012-2014) on Latin-America and Central Asia, and Phase 4 (2015-2017) on Europe and Asia.
The WHEAP involves the technical support of the main international conservation institutions: the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and the earth conservation institute CRAterre-ENSAG as well as of the regional institutions School of African Heritage (EPA, Benin), Centre for Heritage development in Africa (CHDA, Kenya), and Centre for Conservation and Restoration of Atlas and Subatlas Architectural Heritage (CERKAS, Morocco).In 2009, Udine University (Italy) also became a programme partner. In the course of the activities, the programme seeks further cooperation and partnerships with other specialized institutions, as well as national and local governmental authorities.
The programme activities are made possible thanks to the financial support granted by the World Heritage Committee through the World Heritage Fund, the UNESCO Special account for the safeguarding of the Cultural Heritage of Egypt, the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement, the Italian Funds-in-Trust, the Spanish Funds-in-Trust, and the Shaikh Ebrahim Mohammad Al-Kalifa Centre for Culture and Research/ARCAPITA Bank B.S.C from Bahrain.
The opening of applications for the third edition of the Global TERRAFIBRA Award in Contemporary Earthen and Plane Fibre-based Architectures took place on 3 November 2020, up until 3 Mars 2021.
This award promotes the mix of materials in contemporary architecture and aims to highlight the most innovative constructions in this division. Open to new or renovated buildings on all continents, with a significant amount of soil and/or plant fibers, this award is comprised of 10 categories, and in September 2021, the honorary jury will choose a winning project in each category.
For more information, please visit the dedicated webpage:
The World Heritage Committee,
The World Heritage Committee,