Mud Frontier: Architecture on the Borderlands - Free 11/17

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Mud Frontier: Architecture at the Borderlands (Feature Film)

Mud Frontier: Architecture at the Borderland is about Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello and their work to connect contemporary technology with the legacy of pottery making and adobe architecture in the Southwest. Mud Frontiers, the name of their project, uses 3D-printing technology to build adobe structures on Rael’s ancestral land in the San Luis Valley. Located in southern Colorado, the San Luis Valley is a remote and rural area with a distinct culture, language, and landscape. It’s where Indigenous and Hispanic communities have lived in harmony—and in conflict—since the late 16th century, and in the 19th century it became a settlement area during the US’s westward expansion. 


The San Luis Valley has historically been the location of a unique cultural and racial confluence that differs from the rest of the country. The tradition of adobe architecture—a building technique developed and adopted by both Native Americans and European colonists—stands as evidence of the complex socio-cultural history of the region.


Motivated by both the neglect of traditional adobe houses that once covered the region and the rise of concrete buildings, Studio Rael San Fratello has for the past few years been developing prototypes of 3D-printed adobe structures. Much of the film focuses on their pioneering work in the field of additive manufacturing, first with earthenware ceramics and now with architecture. This film follows Rael San Fratello over a two-year period while they work to design and produce the first 3D-printed adobe structure in the United States. In a region considered one of the poorest areas in the state of Colorado, Mud Frontiers seeks to provide solutions for more ecologically friendly, energy-efficient, affordable construction methods. It is an analytical exercise that strives to hold on to cultural traditions while pushing the limits of a humble, naturally occurring material with the help of 21st century technology.

  • Year
  • Runtime
    58 minutes
  • Language
  • Country
    United States
  • Director
    Chris J. Gauthier
  • Producer
    Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum