The Modular Way – or “ancient IKEA” – Experiments with Wood-Timber Construction – Branches and Clay

In September I explored a new field of ecological  building and possible shelter constructions. This research  is not finished yet,   but I decided to publish some photos and drawings on the blog.  comments are welcome.

This field is a modular building. It does not use bricks in burned form or adobe bricks, bur rather the basic model of one frame – usually made of  timber,  wood. This unit is repeated and interconnected to other units with slight changes.

While studying the structure it reminds me of a the logic and  a language structures , where the same elements  are repeated, interconnected, which slight modification soccer.




The empty modular frame can be filled up with wicker construction, adobe bricks, stones, marbles, straw bales, burned brick, or even with recycled paper




German Fachwerk houses and Yemeni desert skyscrapers were build  with the modular technique of wooden frames.


Complex Fachwerk construction – advantages:

the builder needs little wood compared to a massive wooden wall.

The gaps in the frames can be filled with any material, which is available or cheap.

Precise constructions can be achieved,  once the wooden framework is done, you can not make too many mistakes.

The technique can be used for small shelters – and  for tall buildings .



Timber was very valuable.  If a family moved hundred years ago in Germany or Flanders they took their house as flat-pack with them. They  left the earth and straw of the walls behind and   put  the, balks  of the old house  precisely numbered on their covers wagon  to build a new house in the new settlement.


Some ways to use little wood and to combine architectural motives from remote  cultures in harmony


German Fachwerk filled with earth and straw – inner construction



German Fachwerk-Play-straw, photo found on the net


also the ancient adobe skyscrapers in Shibam, Yemen are build on the basis of wood and earth constructions, even if the wooden framework is cover.

Also the houses in Netherlands used to paint and cover the Fachwerk timber, the  black and white version is design in many rural houses  later to make it more attractive and visible  for tourists… 🙂


This house might have been in hundred years ago completely white.



This old fisherman’s house I found in Dubai. it is also a basic contraction of wooden framework, here  the gaps are filled  with wicker. and even with textile. The tower is the ancient cooling system, a natural air-condition machine.

( see my article Wind and Towers Dubai)


Fisherman’s house, Dubai, my photo from April 2015

This is a ceiling from Doha




Ceiling source:

The modular building system , the timber framework, door and roof  is often used  as decorative element in damascene inlay boxes – here it does not have any function,  it mirrors rather the deep symbolic meaning an the house and the geometric structure.

Wooden Box from Damascus  source



German Fachwerk



Maria-Theresa’s , Four models for houses for adobe and earth houses  German settlers in Hungary, source: ” Föld- és Szalmaépítészet”, Mednyánszky Péter, Novák Ágnes, Terc book, ISBN 9639535435, Budapest 2006

((With the wooden frame- technique you can achieve even earth-quacks protected buildings:  these pagodas in Japan do not collapse, because of the wooden shinabaras. The shinbashira acts as a massive tuned mass damper, helping to mitigate the earthquake’s vibrations. It also prevents the floors from swaying to the point of collapse and absorbs some of the momentum of the floors as they strike against it.


But this is not the main issue of this entry. It deserves a new entry.



Hagyományos falak (-Traditional Walls) authors :Sabján Tíbor – Buzás Miklós ISBN: 9638630353

In September 2016 used the module and frame system in new ways – and filled it with wicker and clay in the show The Measurement of our traveling Feet (  Maastricht September)  here follows some pictures.



building a piece of timber construction

timer frame construction



willow branches



willow and timber construction


willow branches in the construction


playing with forms  while covering the wooden structure with clay-straw mixture




The first layer of earth and straw is rough


first rough layer



final fine layer and wood is also covered is clay

The idea was to create a structure, wich stands in backlight.  One ned is a real massive wall and the other end completely transparent.  I wanted to show the various possibilities of the material : a heavy real wall and light transparent structures.




The construction- Art-work: Times of Big Change in Marres House of culture. It is not about  technical  inventions, –  but rather about mixing ” languages, sentences  of architecture” in a harmonious way and about many other stories, which I can not describe here. You can visit the exhibition until end of November 2016.

For opening hours and address please visit the site of the exhibition space:


Róza El-Hassan 2016 ( except of those photos, where I added the sources)

With many thanks to those  in Maastricht, who provided  wood, clay and willow branches  materials to  build.


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