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Terra 2021: Call for Abstracts

Earthen Architectural Heritage

March 1, 2020

Santa Fe, NM

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Terra 2021: Earthen Architectural Heritage

Terra 2021: Earthen Architectural Heritage

Organized by Getty Conservation Institute, National Park Service, Vanishing Treasures Program and University of Pennsylvania, Stuart Weitzman School of Design

Under the aegis of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, International Scientific Committee on the Conservation of the Earthen Architectural Heritage



The Call for Abstracts is now open and abstract submissions for oral presentations, posters, and video / digital media are currently being accepted. The deadline for submission is March 1, 2020. Abstracts must describe the content of the presentation, poster, video or media presentation in English or Spanish, and should be no longer than 300 words. Abstracts should include the name, affiliation and address of the author(s). Authors should specify their preference for an oral presentation, poster or video / digital media submission. Authors should also select up to three themes they think best represent their topic. To submit an abstract, please click on the button located at the bottom of this page. You will be instructed to first create an author profile and then directed to add a new abstract submission. After creating your profile, you can log in at any time to view your submission.


Terra 2021 will focus on the most relevant themes in the field today and moving forward. Each theme is intended to encompass a range of work reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of the field. Papers are encouraged that present recent research and innovative practice in training, documentation, laboratory and field testing, and implementation, as well as issues of socio-cultural and economic dynamics of conservation, risk and vulnerability of earthen heritage in the face of climate change, tourism and development.

Southwestern US and Northern Mexico
The practice of building with earth spans well over a thousand years in the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. Of both indigenous and European cultural traditions, the knowledge and craft of earthen construction continue through long-established communities that retain ties to places of their heritage. These traditions are exemplified by hundreds, if not thousands, of archeological sites, and historic and contemporary structures across the landscape. This collection of resources represents not only a wide geographic range and typology of earthen architecture, but is also a catalogue of research and conservation techniques used to prolong the lives of these historically significant structures. Submissions are sought that celebrate the traditional craft of earthen building and the rich heritage represented in the sites, structures, and cultural landscapes of the region. Topics of interest include local and regional initiatives, community-focused efforts to preserve earthen heritage and retain traditional practices, past and current conservation and management approaches and activities, and risk and vulnerability specific to this geographic and climatic region.

Archeological Sites
Earthen archaeological sites present a unique and complex set of challenges including fragmentation, illegibility, extreme environmental sensitivity and material deterioration, as well as contested ownership and control. Their conservation, management, and interpretation as heritage places require special knowledge and methodologies for both heritage specialists and archaeologists. Submissions are sought on a wide range of topics concerning or related to archaeological earthen heritage including documentation and recording, site formation and degradation, and intervention strategies including interpretation and display; legislation, national and international policy; and contemporary issues of public involvement and descendent community ownership.

Historic Buildings and Structures
The  earthen architectural heritage found around the world is rich and complex. Earth has been used as a building material for eleven millennia, and can be seen in ancient archaeological sites, historic buildings and structures, as well as in modern construction. The majority of historic structures suffer from lack of maintenance and abandonment, threatening the existence and preservation of these buildings. The loss of the know-how of earthen construction techniques and building maintenance, and the replacement of traditional with “modern” construction techniques exacerbates the issue. Preserving historic earthen buildings and structures, while adapting them for modern use, demands a multidisciplinary approach that addresses the economic, social, cultural and technical problems holistically. Submissions are sought that address the various methods employed to preserve these structures including documentation, inventories, building pathology studies, interventions, design guidelines, building codes and stakeholder engagement.

Urban Settings
The conservation of historic earthen buildings within urban contexts is a challenging issue because land prices are usually high, development pressure is often intense, and building codes or guidelines frequently do not address the conservation of earthen buildings. However, many cities worldwide contain significant earthen buildings in need of conservation. Submissions are sought from a broad geographic spectrum that address these and other conservation issues within urban environments with significant earthen architecture. In addition to case study examples and best practices conservation in the context of an urban setting, contributions that confront either theoretical or practical issues associated with inserting contemporary architecture within historic earthen cities or neighborhoods within cities are also of particular interest.

Cultural Landscapes and Cultural Routes
Earthen heritage exists within cultural landscapes and along cultural routes – the combined works of nature and people. Cultural landscapes are complex systems where cultural relationships are developed within an ecological context, recognizing the reciprocal influence of nature and culture. These landscapes are considered a living process with manifestations of popular culture, traditions, values and customs that are a testimony to the way a society relates to its environment. In terms of earthen heritage, this includes the association of earthen buildings and structures with other assemblages of the built environment such as farmsteads, villages, and cities on the landscape, as well as the soils from which a particular earthen building or structure was constructed. Cultural routes that often pass through these cultural landscapes, are physical routes for travel between two points that have been in use for a long historic period and have led to the cross-fertilization of cultures and produced clear heritage outcomes, both tangible and intangible, testifying to the exchange and movements along the routes. Cultural routes and cultural landscapes have directly influenced traditions in building with earth, sharing and influencing variations of building techniques and expressions. Submissions are sought that examine how cultural landscapes and cultural routes have shaped the way in which earthen architecture expresses itself on the landscape, and issues of conservation and management on this scale.

Advances in Research
Research in the conservation of earthen heritage has steadily expanded since the first experts meetings held by specialists in the 1970s. Tools and techniques for analysis on the micro and macro scale have progressed rapidly in the last decades including material and structural analysis, seismic mitigation, environmental research, and documentation of earthen heritage with new technologies being developed to identify, characterize and record heritage in new and innovative ways. Submissions are sought that address research methods and results, new tools, techniques and methodologies for scientific research at all scales. In particular, papers that are cross-disciplinary in scope are encouraged.

History of Conservation
All conservation is a critical act informed by contemporary concerns and historical habit. The identification and treatment of earthen built heritage is no exception. Despite the dominance of other more durable construction materials and systems in the conservation literature, earthen heritage ranks among the earliest sites to be consciously preserved. Submissions are sought that examine and reflect on the history and theory of the conservation and management of earthen heritage, its methods, materials, personalities, and sites. Of particular interest are those contributions that reflect on past approaches and methods and present lessons learned.

Education and Advocacy
Educating professionals, stakeholders, and the public in the conservation of earthen heritage improves practice, strengthens networks, helps to raise awareness, and provides tools for advocacy for earthen sites. Despite the continued growth of educational and training activities in the conservation of earthen heritage, there are still relatively few opportunities for educators and practitioners to share knowledge, experience and lessons learned. Submissions are sought that deal with a variety of topics related to education and advocacy for earthen heritage. These may include formalized practical and theoretical courses, project-related on-site training activities, workshops and other organizational initiatives aimed at increasing awareness of earthen heritage. Of particular interest are pedagogical and didactic methods, as well as assessment and evaluation results that can benefit the field.

Risk and Vulnerability
Identifying cultural resource vulnerability is one of the most important challenges currently facing all heritage resource managers. With a huge backlog of deferred maintenance and a poor understanding of building and site performance and deterioration, especially in the context of earthquakes, fire, and floods and a changing climate, as well as aging treatments and limited monitoring, identifying vulnerability is a fundamental problem with broad consequences for earthen cultural resources. Submissions are sought that address both remedial and preventive disaster related interventions. Topics of particular interest include examples of evidence-based, long-term permanent site monitoring, survey, and historical data for improving predictions about earthen site performance and treatment results; modeling tools that can predict the strength and direction of feedback responses to risk and threat; the establishment of vulnerability indices; and adaptive management tools that can assist in decision making for earthen sites.

Care by and for Communities
The conservation and stewardship of earthen structures, in some cultures and traditions, are overseen by community stakeholders who may or may not be professionally trained in formal conservation methodologies. The care by communities for their earthen heritage, frequently passed down over generations and through established traditions of maintenance and renewal, can hold a wealth of information for conservation professionals. Local knowledge about how to conserve and maintain earthen structures can inform, and be complementary to, more established practices. The benefits of community engagement in the care for their heritage are far-reaching, and can positively impact both the heritage and the social fabric, strengthening communities while maintaining and preserving their heritage. Therefore, papers are sought that either provide examples of communities caring for their significant and vernacular earthen structures in distinct and creative ways, or demonstrate ways in which professional conservators can learn new techniques and lessons from local practitioners. Papers that reflect on the outcomes of this approach as well as the tensions between top-down and bottom-up approaches to earthen architectural conservation within communities are also welcomed.


Abstracts, papers, posters and digital media submissions will be accepted in English and Spanish, the official languages for presentation and publication. Simultaneous interpretation between English and Spanish will be provided during the congress sessions.


Presentations will be limited to twenty minutes. Each session will be followed by ample discussion time. The program will include general sessions and sessions by theme. Guidelines for presentations and posters will be sent to authors whose abstracts for oral presentations, posters, or video / digital media are accepted. Presenters will be asked to submit their presentation texts one month ahead of the congress for the interpreters to prepare for the sessions.

Author Notification

Authors will be notified of acceptance of papers, posters or video / media for presentation in August 2020.



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National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
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Email: ncptt[at]nps.gov
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