Earth Building-Nader Khalili (1936-2008)

Earth Building-Nader Khalili (1936-2008)

For me, true inspiration comes from nature and from ideas that can transform lives. I came across Cal-Earth, the  California institute of earth art and architecture through a face book post and am…inspired.

an earth building as art! via Cal

Founded in 1991 by Nader Khalili, world-renowned Iranian-American architect, author, humanitarian, teacher, and innovator, Cal-Earth’s mission is guided by three principles:   

  1. shelter is a basic human right,
  2. every human being should be able to build a house for him or herself, and
  3. the best way to provide shelter for the exponentially increasing human population is by building with earth.

Nader saw architecture as an essential social service,” said Eric Owen Moss, director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture, where Nader taught for a number of years. “He was constantly looking for ways to serve the poor, disinherited areas of the world.”

From the eco-dome, approximately 400 sq. ft.

the earthdome via: Cal

building an earth dome, via Cal

Earth-dome basic plan, via Cal

to emergency villages for refugees…Cal Earth builds safe structures that give maximum safety with minimum environmental impact. They use natural materials and, like nature itself, build with minimum materials to create maximum space, like a beehive or a sea shell. The architecture is based on the strongest structures in nature which work in tune with our earth: arches, domes and vault forms; and they make them out of the most available material on earth, the earth itself.

emergency village via Cal

Born in Iran as one of nine children, Khalilis quest was to empower the worlds poor and refugees to build homes using the earth under their feet. He was a prominent American leader on the value of ethically based architecture, where the needs of the homeless are considered above all else.

Inspired by the mystical poetry of Rumi (whose poems he studied and translated from an early age), his architecture was distilled from the timeless principles of this universe and its timeless materials—the elements of earth, air, water, and fire, and has been described as “Poetry crystallized into structure.”

The Rumi Dome out of brick via Cal

Laura Huxley, Aldous Huxley’s widow, called Khalili the “practical visionary.” He was a quiet hero and a gentle humanitarian, who wrote: “No one can prove there is a meaning to life. I must make my own life meaningful. That is all.”

How can we transform spirituality into tangible reality…to have a quest is the key to all desires” Nader Khalidi

If you wish to learn more about these buildings or learn how to build them yourselves, Cal Earth holds many workshops!

Check out the video’s below to see Khalili speak about his spirituality in action and view these inspiring structures.

Continuing in his tradition, Khalili’s son Dastan, and daughter Sheefteh, along with associates and apprentices,are now working to carry forward his vision and are dedicated to research and education of the public in environmentally oriented arts and architecture.

I love this architecture and Khalili’s ideas because they are functional, sustainable, easy and most of all beautiful! They also remind me of another architect who was also inspired by nature and the environment, Gaudi!

Thanks to Leeça Desforges from FB, for turning me on to this inspiring person, and fascinating form of architecture! Nader Khalili was definitely a change agent…are you?

I would love to know what you think of this idea…and, why do you think we don’t hear more about ideas like this in our news?




  1. Lori Gilder 8 years ago

    AMAZING Irene!
    Nader Khahlili is a true inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing this post and opening our eyes to the infinite possibilities through Cal-Earths mission.


    • Author
      Irene Turner 8 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by Lori, he is truly inspiring. And still, I wonder why we don’t hear and see more of this? I love how he infuses his work with his spiritual understanding and human compassion. Love the man and I’m glad you do to.

  2. Lynne Whiteside 8 years ago

    Thank you Irene, I love this concept, and have been following similar sustainable living projects for quite awhile. This concept probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves for the most obvious reason $$$$. Bigger is not better. Khalili shows us a spiritual environment that is home, how wonderful is that!

    • Author
      Irene Turner 8 years ago

      I think besides the beauty, that’s what sold me on this design, the spiritual bent. But then…beauty is spiritual, is it not? Thanks for stopping by Lynne and leaving a comment behind!

  3. Sofa Burbank 8 years ago

    wow! That eco-dome looks incredible. Love it in the interior not sure If the exterior would be accepted by the masses.

  4. Ferne Francis 7 years ago

    Very interesting! Love that first photo.


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