Nader Khalili

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Nader Khalili (Persian: نادر خلیلی‎; 1936–2008) was an Iranian architect. He is best known for his inventive structures that incorporated a range of atypical building materials to provide shelter in the developing world and emergency contexts. [1]


Eco-Dome[2] sandbag shelter under construction in Djibouti, May 2012

Khalili received his philosophical and architectural education in Iran, Turkey, and the United States. In 1970 he was licensed by the State of California and practiced architecture in the U.S. and around the world. Khalili was known for his innovation into the Geltaftan Earth-and-Fire System known as Ceramic Houses and the Earthbag Construction technique called Superadobe. His designs are heavily inspired by traditional arid house designs in his homeland Iran. He was involved with Earth Architecture and Third World Development since 1975, and was a U.N. consultant for Earth Architecture.

He developed his Super Adobe system in 1984, in response to a NASA call for designs for human settlements on the Moon and Mars. The project had been completely theoretical until the Persian Gulf War when refugees were sent into Iran. When this occurred Khalili partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and applied his research to emergency shelters.

In 1991 he founded the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture (Cal-Earth), where he taught his Superadobe building technique. Although Khalili's work received mixed support in his native country, arguably due to social paradigms and political unrest, he became a prominent American leader on the value of ethically based architecture, where the needs of the homeless are considered above all else.

Superadobe construction


In 1984, Khalili received the award for “Excellence in Technology” from the California Council of the American Institute of Architects (CCAIA) for his innovative Ceramic House System. In 1987 he received a Certificate of Special Recognition from the U.N. International Year of Shelter for the Homeless and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for his project "Housing for the Homeless: Research and Education." In 2004 Khalili won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for sandbag shelters built with Superadobe.[3]

Books by Khalili[edit]

Khalili wrote books on his architectural philosophy & techniques as well as translations of poetry from Rumi, the poet he considered instrumental in his design inspiration.

  • Racing Alone
  • Ceramic Houses and Earth Architecture: How to Build Your Own
  • Sidewalks on the Moon
  • Rumi, Fountain of Fire
  • Rumi, Dancing the Flame


  1. ^ "OUR FOUNDER". Cal-Earth Institute. 11 November 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  2. ^ See more construction images in Wikimedia Commons
  3. ^ Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2004: Sandbag Shelter Prototypes

External links[edit]