A field visit to northern Spain was carried out in October 2007, with assistance
from the Institution of Structural Engineers Rowen Travel Award. Dr Charles
Augarde and Dr Chris Gerrard were present for the first three days, and for
the following week I was accompanied on a number of days by Mr Nick Watson.
Jaquin, P.A., Augarde, C. E. and Gerrard, C.M. Historic Rammed Earth
Structures in Spain. International Symposium on Earthen Structures,
Bangalore, August 2007
For more information about the structures mentioned on this page, see my thesis
Rammed earth sites in northern Spain View
The preceptory at Ambel has been extensively studied by Dr Christopher Gerrard
(Gerrard 1999; Gerrard 2003) and was the building which provided the impetus
for this PhD. Dr Gerrard approached the School of Engineering around 2003, looking
for advice on arresting the cracking observed in the building.
This led to a small investigation and MEng project (Jaquin 2004, Jaquin 2005)
and a further MSc investigation (McChlery 2004). The lack of available quality
advice on the conservation and repair of rammed earth structures, identified
during the course of these projects led directly to the instigation of this
The chronology of the site is extremely complex, but well researched and documented
(Gerrard 2003). This building has significant structural problems and is in
need of both investigation and remediation.
The basement appears to be a part-stone, part-brick building, with evidence
of possible Roman stones used for the construction and involving the reuse of
the original precinct wall. An archway in the east wall exists, which stands
over a drainage channel, both of which have been blocked. The archway may have
originally been an entrance to the basement, and a stream which originally ran
through the archway is probably that now seen on the north side of the northern
The preceptory at Bureta is similar in construction to that in Ambel, suggesting
that parts were built around the same time. The style is marked by rammed earth
faced in half bricks, and rammed earth acting as infill between brick columns.
A barn observed at Villafeliche provides an excellent example of combined water
and structural problems. The method of construction is similar to that found
in southern France, but known in Spanish as Tapial con Lunetos as a
reference to the half moon shaped lime sections in the corners of each rammed
The barn is situated on the main thoroughfare into the village and appears
to still be in use. The historic building abuts a concrete barn but does not
appear to be structurally connected to it. The rear wall of the historic structure
may be acting as a retaining wall, but this was impossible to establish. Unfortunately
access internally was not possible.
The chapel in Villafeliche was probably built in the 19th century, and is located
on the outskirts of the village. The distinctive patterns of brickwork beams
and columns with rammed earth infill is similar to that found at Ambel and Buretta.
However, the placement of red tiles in the centre of the rammed earth section
appears unique to the village, being found at a number of sites in the village
and on garden walls in the surrounding area.
The chapel consists of a core square of sixteen columns, with semicircular
extensions to the north, south and east sides. The nave and entrance is to the
west of the structure and appears to have been added at a later date.
The city of Daroca is encircled by a number of different rammed earth walls,
with watchtowers and forts on high points surrounding the city. A historic rammed
earth wall encircled the city.
Torre Jaques was built in many stages as indicated by the numerous rammed earth
construction techniques which can be seen in the face. The base of the tower
is constructed completely in random rubble masonry, and the only entrance to
the tower is around 6m above ground level.
The Great Hall at Daroca is constructed in rammed earth, but it appears that
vertical timbers were used every 5m, either to prevent shrinkage, or to support
a roof structure. When the building was abandoned the timbers were removed,
leaving only the rammed earth which is visible today.
In 1837 the town of Daroca came under attack and a rammed earth defensive wall
was built around important sites. This wall still survives, and the holes in
the wall are rifle ports, overlooking the city.