Date: November 2, 2021 | Story: Tiffany Adams |
Nature Made: Artisan Brandon Gore educates us on the art form, aesthetic, and practice of rammed earth construction
Looking around your neighborhood, it may be hard to imagine homes without brick, siding, or wood-clad facades. After all, these have become the norm in residential building. However, from the dawn of time humans have been making their homes from readily available materials—namely, the earth. A modern iteration of this practice is called rammed earth construction, a concept that caught the attention of Northwest Arkansas native Brandon Gore decades before he would eventually build his own rammed earth home in Eureka Springs.
As a twenty-something living in Arizona and working in the hotel industry, Brandon says he was feeling the stress of day-to-day life and didn’t think he was fully realizing his dreams. “Just to get away, I would go out to mountain bike frequently, and there was this one house along the trail that I particularly loved,” he recalls. As fate would have it, Brandon saw the house on the cover of a local magazine while roaming the aisles of Barnes & Noble one night. That’s where he discovered the structure was made of rammed earth and concrete; after that, he set out to learn more about these intriguing techniques where art meets construction.
Before he was able to fully dive into his own rammed earth projects, he used his savings to first launch a career in the concrete industry. He started Gore Design Company in 2004 specializing in concrete countertops. As the concrete industry continued to grow, his clientele grew with it, and he had the opportunity to apprentice with rammed earth builders and learn the trade. This led to his ultimate goal in 2013: founding EarthForm, a proprietary wall structure system made from rammed earth. In this entity, he also consults on rammed earth homes while continuing to manufacture concrete countertops, furniture, and sinks under the brand name Hard Goods.
BUILT TO LAST
If you haven’t heard of rammed earth, you’re not alone. As of late, the practice is less common in the United States, especially outside of the West. However, Brandon notes that rammed earth has been one of the most widely used building materials since the start of man, touting The Great Wall of China, which is estimated to be almost 3,000 years old, as one such structure. The technique is two-fold, requiring excavated subsoil that can be mixed with cement to add texture and density, and then compacted with a pneumatic ram, hence the name. “Essentially what we are doing is reforming stone, layer after layer, to give us that strata,” Brandon says.
If you’re not sold on the aesthetic alone, you might be wondering what makes rammed earth dwellings attractive places to live. The answer is simple: durability. “These structures are fire, termite, mold, tornado, and bullet proof. They will last for a thousand years,” Brandon says. He also touts their indoor air quality, noting how rammed earth walls absorb and release humidity in a consistent manner, as well as their ability to maintain a consistent temperature thanks to thermal mass. Additionally, the structures have a sustainability aspect; they use just one sixth of the amount of cement required in other common construction methods.
With his passion and knowledge about rammed earth, it’s no surprise Brandon wanted to use the material for his own home. After a move back to Arkansas, he began working on a studio on property he owned in Eureka Springs. “I was heavily influenced by my time spent in Arizona,” Brandon says of the design aesthetic. Following the workshop’s completion, he built a 1,500-square-foot rammed earth home known as Bear Ridge for himself, his wife, Erin, and their daughters, Leola and Ursula. “This is by far the most complete rammed earth project I’ve done,” he says of the structure, which he purposefully designed to be in its most simplistic form, and furnished accordingly. “Everything is real, organic, and will settle into place over time,” he says. “I built every bit of this house, and I built it to last forever.”
Concrete countertops, sinks, casework, floating cabinets, and built-ins in Bear Ridge were created by Brandon’s company Hard Goods. Stay up-to-date on the latest by following along on Instagram (@hardgoodsco).
Rammed earth construction Brandon Gore, EarthForm Countertops, cabinetry (bathroom), hardware, millwork, and outdoor furniture Hard Goods Doors and windows Meeks Flooring Custom Concrete Designs Plantings Bear Creek Nursery Stone Ozark Southern Stone
Interior photos by Aaron Menken. Exterior photos by Tyler Orsak