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Natural Materials Lab

The Natural Materials Lab, founded and directed by Assistant Professor Lola Ben-Alon, investigates raw, earth- and fiber-based building materials, their life cycle, supply chains, fabrication techniques, policy, and upscaled possibilities. Our research and teaching craft new ways to imagine and invent socially equitable and ecologically sustainable futures by converging material science, geology and geography, architecture, engineering, art, and design.


a photography of various human-like bodies made of printed earth-fiber, arranged with two reference books: bodies of clay and archeology of prehistoric bodies & embodied identities
Reflecting on the interconnectivity between material bodies through soil figurine printing
a photograph of an earth fiber tile with successfully grown mycelium
Investigating “dirt” panels as a substrate for mycelium growth
a photograph of a pile woven lattice structure
Developing digital weaving techniques for structural earth-fiber lattices
a flat pattern of biomud mixture extruded in a weaving pattern
Exploring flexible BioMud textiles through weaving techniques and geometries
thermal image of a user wearing the earth fabric heated vest
Designing earth fabric wearables to deliver localized thermally-pleasurable experiences
The Raw Earth Sgraffito Pavilion, Roofing Detail
Tracing the social and material ecologies of sourcing earth through Sgraffito ornamentation
close up photograph of the mashrabiya with shadows
3D printed earth-fiber experiments with lightweight Mashrabiya construction
Two photographs showing samples of flexible biomud fabric
Advancing flexible, structural textiles with natural earth- and bio-based materials.
Diagram of various building policies listed for various countries across the world
Mapping eco-friendly materials through building policy and education
The Biophilic Design and Natural Materials Card Toolkit
Using biophilic design and natural materials to promote recovery and wellbeing in healthcare envi...
Exhibition view of the Eat Me Build Me brick project installation.
Speculating on the mineralogical content of earth materials for buildable -and edible- practices
Thermal Comfort Survey for Occupants in Uninsulated Earthen Structures
The environmental impacts of thermal experience and survivability in earth dwellings
The Farm to Building Installation at Lamont Doherty
A raw (non-stabilized) rammed earth installation at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
Advancing the science and geometry of 3D printed earth-fiber composites
Catalyzing the use of low-carbon and community-engaging building materials through systematic lif...
gif of several iterations of armor-like rigid soil garments worn by models
Integrating earth as a wearable substance, built directly onto one’s body
Grounded Chairs is a 100% organic biodegradable low-carbon seating system
Achieving complex parametric forms through analog means with natural materials
Achieving complex parametric forms through analog means with clay
Reconciling architectural representations of housing while drawing from land art practices
Reconciling architectural representations of housing while drawing from land art practices


Introducing architectural design responses for energy, climate, and comfort
Understanding and managing embodied / operational energy via Life Cycle Assessments (LCA)
Fabrication seminar exploring manual and digital techniques for earthen constructions
A project-based seminar that provides both theoretical and hands-on building experience
Capturing site-specific geology, labor, and migrations through clay, additive, and mold-making
Characterizing a range of soils to create a collective rammed wall installation

Who We Are

The Natural Materials Lab is directed by Lola Ben-Alon, Assistant Professor and Sequence Director of the Building Science and Technology curriculum at GSAPP.

Current Team
Dr. Olga Beatrice Carcassi, Associate Researcher
Penmai Chongtoua, MA. Climate and Society ‘22
EunJin Shin, M.Arch '24
Kate Perez, M.Arch '25
Tashania Audrey Akemah, M.Arch '24
Pavitra Nayak, MS.AAD '24
Grace Schleck, B.Arch '24
Trella Isabel Lopez, M.Arch '24
Yuna Li, M.Arch '24
Aidan Ford Chisholm, MA. Modern and Contemporary Art '24

Past Researchers and Assistants
Zina Berrada, M.Arch ‘23
Mohammad Hossein Zowqi, M.Arch '25
Kumru Emine Taha, CC '25
Zackary Eugene Bryson, M.Arch '24
Andrew Chee, M.Arch '24
Sarah Hejazin, MS.AAD '21
Bisher Tabaa, M.Arch '23
Saba Ardeshiri, M.Arch '23
Jennah Christina Jones, M.Arch '23
Mariami Maghlakelidze, MS.AAD '21
Reem Makkawi, M.Arch '22

Recent News

GSAPP Conversations:
Natural Materials Mini Series with Lola Ben-Alon

Over the Fall 2020 semester, Assistant Professor Lola Ben-Alon hosted a mini-series on natural and living building materials as part of the GSAPP Conversations podcast. The Natural Materials mini-series consists of conversations with designers, builders, and product developers of clay, bamboo, fibers, and bacterial concrete. Natural materials are defined as minimally processed, readily available, nontoxic, healthy, and engaging materials. They are critically needed to reduce carbon emissions and extractive harmful impact associated with conventional building materials.