Phineas Harper at Literary Review:
This is a good moment, then, for the Belgian architect Jean Dethier to release a 512-page survey chronicling earth construction from prehistory onwards across five continents. Proportioned and priced as a coffee table filler, the book is in fact ferociously polemical. Within pages, Dethier is raging against the climate-wrecking paradigm of contemporary construction: ‘The excessive use of industrialized building materials, often under the pretext of rationality, is one of the main causes of climate change.’ He argues that ‘prevailing building practices of today are often exploitative and dangerous, forced upon us by a lobby of multinational manufacturers of industrialized materials that have come to dominate our lives’.
While there is a hint of the Luddite romantic to Dethier’s writing, his core argument – that the marginalisation of earth building is a political product of industrial capitalism – is persuasive.