Nader Khalili, an Earth Architect and teacher known for his innovative work with adobe, died on March 5 of congestive heart failure. He was 72 years old. Among his best-known inventions is the “super adobe” Earthbag construction system. He developed it during the early 1980s in response to a call for designs for human settlements on the Moon and Mars by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The system consists of oblong plastic bags that are filled with dirt and then laid in circular courses, like the blocks of an igloo, and held in place by barbed wire. When covered in stucco, the bags create form a permanent shelter.
Khalili championed Earthbag houses—which cost as little as $500—as an affordable solution for poverty stricken areas in Africa, India, and South America. He received special recognition from the United Nations for his “Housing for the Homeless” proposal in 1987 and his prototypes were recognized with the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004. Khalili also invented the Geltaftan Earth-and-Fire system. Most adobe houses are unable to withstand earthquakes and strong winds, so Kahlili imagined a fired-adobe structure—dubbed the “ceramic house”—that could resist these elements.