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Unconventional ways of approaching loam

This project is about

the qualities and vitality of the material loam.

It is about our interaction with the material and about discovering our surroundings in a new way.

Dive in,

into this new world,

the world of loam.

Following the concepts of the material turn, a conceptualization of the anthropocentric world view towards a balanced conception considering all entities as equal constitutes a first step towards combating the ecological crisis. 

The goal of the Cycle of Vitality is to collectively redefine and redesign humans' relationship to the nonhuman world.

What is vitality of matter about and why does it matter? 

Things and materials have an effect on people and their everyday life. They cause actions and reactions within our society. Likewise, people impose things the power to act or to initiate actions. In other words, “[t]he things that people make, make people” (Daniel Miller).

Materials aren‘t made to become finished artifacts, they are "substances-in-becoming" (Karen Barad). They undergo constant change during their formation as well as in their further processing. Matter needs to be seen as something active, lively on its own, but instead, it is prevalently perceived as a passive, inert mass that can be and is (trans)formed and shaped by human action.

To regard matter as vital means to respect its will to transform, i.e. to understand it as a substance-in-becoming. Likewise, the vitality of matter embraces the capability of materials to cause actions and reactions. 


If we start to give the matter a voice and ascribe it with vitality, 
we consequently will care for it better. 

The appreciation of matter’s vitality shifts the way we design and deal with objects. Thinking in things, hence, in materials-in-movement, not in finished artifacts makes circularity easier to achieve. Following a Matter-Centered design-approach intending to explore and understand the interests of the non-livings, this project aims at a fair interplay with resources to regain a healthy environment.

The vitality of loam

Loam has many stories to tell.

Depending on the initial rock, the degree of weathering, decomposition, or relocation, the mineral composition of loam varies. It hosts diverse organisms and animals and builds the ground for growth. It does not only reveal a living world within but also a liveliness by its own. This does not mean to equate soil to living beings but to see it as something active that can be the catalyst of actions and reactions.

Hence, loam a vital, because it reveals a liveliness on its own.

Its vitality can be interpreted with the capability to infinitely transform. The clay minerals make this possible. They act as binding agents for sand, silt, or other components when they are wet. Likewise, they harden in the air. Loam can become malleable or solid at any time. It constantly reacts to its surrounding in absorbing or releasing moisture.

I collected stories about the past, the present, and the futures of this material on Instagram @loamstories  intending to capture the whole multi-faceted range of loam’s stories.


The Cycle of Vitality is a collection of 
jointly created mudballs, so-called Dorodangos, representing the vital resource loam.

Hikaru Dorodango is Japanese 
and means shining mudball. 

So, Dorodango describes the art of making mud balls from clay. 

It is a meditative process, where layers of fine dirt are added to the surface of a muddy ball.

During this process, the maker dives into a meditative flow - disconnected from everything else, concentrating on the material. The constantly repeating movements remain challenging,

as the Dorodango can change from one minute to the other.

While changing appearance, the material expresses its needs.

When it for example becomes too dry, the maker must react by adding water. Vice versa, wet loam cannot be formed well and requires time to dehumidify for further processing. 

Hence, the maker has to react to the material, 
or rather, interact with it to achieve the best result.

During this process, the maker
experiences all stages of loam’s becoming 
and its power to evoke actions. 

The Cycle of Vitality is a 
collection of 20 different Dorodangos 
originating from four loam types (see picture): mountain loam, alluvial loam, boulder loam, and loess loam. These types display all facets of loam, they can be connected to the region of their origin, and they feature a characteristic color.

All those Dorodangos went on a journey
 to communicate their vitality themselves.
 They had been handed over to new owners, asking them to recreate a Dorodango on their own.

The intensive engagement with the material during the forming process generates a close relationship to the material. It is a process of reflection that one can only experience through a direct exchange with the material. And through this, 
a desire to care for the material rises. 


The process of re-becoming a Dorodango, the temporarily finished artifacts, and the future-Dorodangos are documented on Instagram @thecycleofvitality and the website thecycleofvitality.


Dorodango Set with all necessary components for the new makers to re-create a new Dorodango.

WhatsApp Image 2020-08-26 at 12.58.09 (1
WhatsApp Image 2020-08-13 at 13.16.35 (1
WhatsApp Image 2020-08-12 at 09.54.38 (1

Dorodango in their second phase of becoming. Pictures by creators.

A series of Workshops 
Exploring loam's vitality together. 


The Cycle of Vitality

Masterthesis in Eco-Social Design


Free University of Bolzano

Supervisors: Prof. Nitzan Cohen, Seçil Uğur Yavuz

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