Volhard trio thumb Beginnings with Franz Volhard

Architect Franz Volhard ignited the modern interest in straw-clay as a building material with his seminal 1983 book "Leichtlehmbau: alter Baustoff—neue Technik" (translated "Light Loam [or Clay] Construction: Old Material, New Technique"). Volhard's early interest was in studying centuries-old German buildings in order to restore and adapt them. His careful investigations and documentation led him to reinvent the material for modern use and inspire designers and builders on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the early 1990s, with the book unavailable in the USA, we worked from poor photocopies and coaxed translations of portions from German-speaking friends. In 2009 we spent several days with Franz at his home office in Darmstadt.

Lou, Franz and Douglas
inspecting old strtaw clay samples

left & above: Volhard meticulously catalogs and stores samples from all of the histoical buildings he has restored. [Photos: Dr. Sue Thering]


below: We inspect 700 year old light straw-clay that looks as fresh as the material we installed a few weeks earlier in Wisconsin. [Photo: Dr. Sue Thering]

700 year old straw clay
pounding clay into the mold stretchng the clay sample
above: Volhard demonstrates the equipment he invented to compare the adhesion properties of various clay samples.
visiting an old-new straw clay condo

left: Franz gives us a tour of a ±400 year old building built of straw clay which has recently been remodeled into high-end condominium units.

below: a model section showing composite construction: double-stud wall framing with heavy straw clay mass infill, cellulose insulation and rock-wool type rigid board.

model wall section

book cover thumb


Volhard recently released an updated "Bauen mit Leichtlehm: Hanbuch fur das Bauen mit Holz und Lehm" (Building with Light Clay: Handbook for Building with Straw and Clay), published in German and French editions.

Franz Volhard's architectural website...

and his many publications...


© 1995-2020 Design Coalition, Inc. | 2088 Atwood Avenue | Madison, Wisconsin, 53704, USA |
All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced or re-used in any form without express written permission.