A geopolitics of mud construction: Self-help and the CINVA-Ram machine in Ghana and South Vietnam during the Cold War

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


In 1951, the Organization of American States established the Centro Interamericano de Vivienda y Planeamiento (CINVA) to provide specialized training to tackle the housing problem. Based on archival documentation examined at the Rockefeller Archive Center and the Central and Historical Archive of the National University of Colombia, this article explores two significant episodes in which the story of one of the Center's most successful outputs connects to the history of the Cold War. It thus contributes to the literature investigating the architecture and related technologies of development aid in the historical context of the Cold War with a precise focus on the role of non-governmental actors. After detailing the history of the CINVA-Ram machine, the pressing machine to produce rammed-earth blocks developed at the Center and later exported to America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, the article explores its deployment in two different fronts of the Cold War: Ghana and South Vietnam. As highlighted in the conclusions, the significance of CINVA-Ram use in these contexts is manyfold. Firstly, its diffusion, although appearing as a successful case of south-to-south cooperation, was in fact possible because of the Rockefeller family-controlled IBEC's involvement. Secondly, it shows the global outreach of the intertwined action of governmental agencies, private companies, and NGOs, when fighting poverty and housing shortage via aided self-help initiatives were complementary strategies to the armed containment of Communism. Finally, it discusses the role played by US governmental and non-governmental actors in advancing US interests through technoscience, highlighting how the battle against poverty in the so-called “Third World” was in this case fought with one of the oldest and simplest construction techniques in the ideological framework of self-help.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1180-1194
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers of Architectural Research
Issue number6
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Mud construction
  • CINVA-Ram
  • Housing
  • South Vietnam
  • Cold War
  • Ghana
  • Buildings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Building and Construction
  • Archaeology
  • Urban Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'A geopolitics of mud construction: Self-help and the CINVA-Ram machine in Ghana and South Vietnam during the Cold War'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this