TRANSFORMING EARTH INTO HOUSES: A METHODOLOGY FOR DOCUMENTING CONSTRUCTION PROCESSES AS AN APPRENTICE IN THE IRANIAN DESERT, SOUTH KHORASAN
Keywords: Traditional Construction Processes, Apprenticeship, Vernacular Architecture, Anthropology of Architecture, Documentation Methods, Intangible Heritage, Craft-skills, Video Recordings
Abstract. This article presents a methodology for recording and documenting building processes using an anthropological approach. The village of Esfahak, in the region of South Khorasan (Iran) is situated in an arid environment scarce in water and trees. These conditions have resulted in the development of building forms that are almost entirely made out of earth. For centuries houses have been erected by local master masons utilizing only mud bricks and without the use of any architectural drawings. This research seeks to document how building processes unfold and are implemented in the village, for both restoration and new constructions. The researcher undertakes ethnographic fieldwork examining the relationship between villagers and their architecture. This approach is based on participant observation, engaging the local community to study how buildings were and are conceived, constructed, inhabited, maintained and restored. Moreover, the research employs an apprentice-style fieldwork method to access building sites. Thus, the researcher learns by doing with masons as a way to embody local knowledge, and not merely through passive observation. The work on site, given its processual nature, is documented through audio-visual recordings from both an external and first-person perspective. The use of head-mounted cameras facilitates review and discussion of building processes with the masons allowing for an in-depth understanding of this craft practice.