Nader Khalili: A Twentieth Century Eco-Architect
Nader Khalili (1936-2008) is a prominent Iranian architect who immigrated and lived in America to the rest of his life. He is also architectural author, humanitarian, and philosopher, who received his architectural education and developed his theories and concepts in Iran, Turkey, and the United States. Khalili’s main interest was to produce affordable houses that can be built by the available building materials and local resources. He invented the Geltaftan Earth-and-Fire system, which is known as Ceramic Houses, as well as the ‘Superadobe construction system’. In 1986, Khalili established the Geltaftan Foundation and in 1991, he founded the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture (Cal-Earth).
As a teacher and a humanitarian, Khalili spent his life spreading his knowledge and philosophy about earth architecture and affordable shelters. His theories and concepts were presented in conferences as well as published widely in many prestigious journals such as NASA, and the “Journal of Aerospace Engineering”. Throughout his life, Khalili published number of seminal books where he summed up his architectural concepts and earth building techniques including, ‘Racing Alone and Ceramic Houses and Earth Architecture: How to Build Your Own’, “Earth and Fire”, and ‘Sidewalks on the Moon’.
Khalili invented a new building system call ‘Earth-bag Houses, whose cost is as little as $500. It was intended to solve the problem of constructing affordable houses for poor areas in Africa, India, and South America. The houses are made of sandbags covered with wire mesh and stucco. In 1987, Khalili prepared a proposal called “Housing for the Homeless”, which was awarded by the United Nations, and the prototypes of this project were also recognized by by the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004.
One of Khalili’s important work is the design for ‘Future City/ Villages, Intl.’, in New Cuyama, California in 1988. Another important project is the ‘Malekshahr of Isfahan’, which was intended to serve a community of 20,000. The project was designed and partially constructed in 1979. The Middle East headquarters of Dupont/Polyacryl is also one of Khalili’s outstanding work.
Khalili’s belief was that there is a sustainable solution to human shelter, which is based on timeless available local building materials such as earth, water, air and fire, as well as timeless architectural principles, which produced arches, vaults and domes. Khalili believed that the only missing factor is the way of educating humans how to use and exploit these timeless materials and method of construction. In addition, there is a need to raise peoples' awareness and respect to their environment, culture and long life-tested traditions.