Mud structures are amazingly effective at keeping us warm in the winter and cool in the summer while also withstanding severe weather. Architects are turning back to this neglected, ancient building material in their quest for more environmentally friendly structures.

In Yemen’s ancient walled capital of Sana’a, mud towers soar high into the sky. The tall towers are composed completely of rammed earth and are coated in striking geometric patterns. The clay buildings blend in with the nearby ochre-colored mountains. Because of its unusual mud architecture, Sana’a has been named a Unesco World Heritage Site. According to Salma Samar Damluji, co-founder of the Daw’an Mud Brick Architecture Foundation in Yemen, the majority of the historic buildings are still in use as private residences today, despite the fact that Sana’a’s structures date back thousands of years. Because of how adaptable, insulated, and sustainable these mud houses are for modern use, their appeal has not diminished.

In an effort to create sustainable buildings that can resist harsh weather conditions like flash floods and sweltering heat, architects all over the world are reviving the use of raw earth in construction. Could the design of our future homes and cities be influenced by this old style of architecture? Could the climate crisis be significantly solved with this back-to-basics approach?