16 April 2024

A symposium on earth

In preparation of our Rammed Earth House completing later this year, we’ve been reflecting on the value and potential of this versatile material in other sectors.  We sat down with three creative practitioners to hear how the ground beneath our feet influences their practice.


Jonathan Smales – Director of The Phoenix Housing Development

Jonathan Smales has long been an instigator of change, both when it comes to environmental societal shifts, and most recently, how we approach large scale housing solutions.

‘The Phoenix is a 685-home sustainable neighbourhood rising from a brownfield site in Lewes, planned to shift the imperatives of climate and natural emergencies into opportunities for better design, placemaking and living.’ Preceding The Phoenix, the former Greenpeace director founded The Earth Centre.’I was intrigued by the idea of giving the green movement some glamour while creating something fun and educational. We found this colliery site in South Yorkshire, a sort of damaged moonscape, and I fell in love. The Earth Centre was born. We created something that was truly special  which was ahead of its time. Today it’s a 80-hectare forest with 120,000 trees.’


Helga Ritsch – Ceramicist

Swiss ceramicist, Helga Ritsch stands as a remarkable figure in the world of contemporary art, merging the serene beauty of Swiss landscapes with the delicate intricacy of Japanese pottery.

‘I am interested in creating works that radiate a mysterious and sometimes irritating beauty, they are intended to inspire reflection, dreaming and that touch, texture leaving a lasting impression. Working with clay grants me the opportunity to perform a type of ritual that channels chaotic trains of thoughts into a physical manifestation.’


Dan Cox – Head Chef at Crocadon

There are few better landscapes on which to source fresh produce from earth to plate than the the Cornish countryside. Dan Cox took over a 120-acre plot in 2017 and has since been evolving a holistic approach between farming and culinary art.

‘I took over the farm on my own. I didn’t have any farming experience but following years in Michelin starred kitchens I wanted to have the autonomy to do everything myself from scratch. I continue to learn every discipline, from planting, to cultivation to maximising on seasonal produce. We have loamy clay soil here. It’s harder to work but it brings a rich mineral flavour to our produce. We grow lots of weird and wonderful things, gingers, lemongrass and Szechuan pepper trees are all the result of the soil composition specific to this part of the UK.’

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