that’s how you are
just like a sun
right from within
you will arise
What if… we were forced to make our own homes, to build a dwelling with only the materials found in nature, what would it look like? This idea can conjure up many varied architectural concepts depending on your natural surroundings. One visionary not only created a concept that works in this world, he created structures that can be built on the surface of the other worlds.
For 25 years, Nader Khalili’s specialty as an architect was the design of skyscrapers. Then at thirty-eight he came to a turning point in his life – He bought a motorcycle and went to the Iranian desert for five years. The reason for his trip was to investigate solutions for sheltering the poor in the world, and to learn from what was already in place. It was there, in the Iranian desert that Khalili discovered five personalities: earth, water, air, fire, and Rumi.
Rumi was an 800-year-old Persian mystic poet who taught Khalili the unity of these universal elements, forming his “Archemy” i.e. architecture and alchemy – ‘Water is fire, earth is water, and there is a unity in all elements’. In 1986, Khalili founded and became director of the Geltaftan Foundation, and in 1991, he founded Cal-Earth at the California Institute of Earth Art And Architecture. At Cal-Earth Khalili taught his philosophy of design and earth architecture techniques and his sustainable solutions for human shelter. His work has been published by NASA, and awarded by the United Nations and the Aga Khan award for Architecture, among others.
Khalili believed that ‘there is a Sustainable Solution to Human Shelter, based on Timeless Materials (earth, water, air and fire) and Timeless Principles (arches, vaults and domes). Every man and woman should be able to build a shelter for his or her family with these universal elements, almost anywhere on the earth and other planets. These principles, interpreted into the simplest form of building technology have created emergency shelter which can become permanent houses, and which have passed strict tests and building codes. Since 1975 they have been dedicated to researching and developing this low-cost, self-help, eco-friendly technology that can resist disasters, and to offer it to humanity. The only missing link is to educate humans how to use these timeless techniques, developed at Cal-Earth Institute, to fit their own culture and environment.
Currently there are more than 60 million refugees and displaced persons, and hundreds of millions more who live in substandard or slum housing. With compounding environmental challenges and the acceleration of natural and man-made disasters, this shortage will only become more severe in the coming decades. To meet this pressing need, Cal-Earth develops and educates the public in self help, environmentally sustainable building techniques that anyone can do with their own two hands: using locally available earth, sandbags and barbed wire, that meet modern-day standards for safety, beauty, energy efficiency, and comfort.
In 1984, Lunar and Space habitation became an integral part of Khalili’s work. He presented his Magma Structures design at the 1984 NASA symposium (Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century) and was subsequently invited to Los Alamos National Laboratory as a visiting scientist. In that year he also presented papers and was published in several symposiums and publications including those of NASA and the Journal of Aerospace Engineering, and accepted an awarded by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Khalili was a member of the team of Lunar Resources Processing Project, along with the Princeton based Space Studies Institute, McDonnell Douglas Space Systems, and Alcoa.
Based in Hesperia, California, Cal-Earth trains hundreds of people each year through on-site, international, and web-based educational programs. The alumni have helped share earth building with communities in over 40 countries across the globe, and their workshops have been held on five continents.