Ever since time immemorial, dung has been used as a ‘building material’ throughout the world for various reasons, including its widespread availability and great malleability.

Recently, for example, following the earthquake in India in January 2001, in collaboration with several NGOs, a new village – Gandi No Gao – was built exploiting traditional techniques and materials including dung (of cows and donkeys) used as an ingredient for making bricks, mortar, and even plaster and the wall decorations of local houses, known as ‘bhunga’. In fact, as well as deploying ancient methods and using natural materials promoting environmental sustainability, the original local houses in raw earth with circular foundations in the Kachchh district (Gujarat) were among the structures that suffered least damage after the 2001 earthquake.1 The village of Gandi No Gao was therefore produced at low cost, drawing on ancient formulae, and with major participation from local inhabitants.

In the Shit Museum, the basic structure of a hut has been built, starting from the example of the ‘hut of the Villanovan era’ reproduced in the Margherita Gardens (in Bologna) by researchers of the Museo Civico Archeologico in Bologna. Villanovan culture, which on the basis of archaeological findings, the early Etruscan civilisation is now almost universally recognised as
being rooted, spread between the 9th and 8th centuries BC throughout an area lying between the River Arno to the north and the Tiber to the south. Right from the beginning or shortly afterwards, this main area was followed by the spread of similar cultural centres in Emilia Romagna (Bologna and Verucchio), in the Marche (Fermo) and near Salerno (Pontecagnano).


The Bolognese institution – which also kindly granted the Shit Museum the iconographical documentation of the project, as shown on the monitor – produced a hut with bricks made of clay mixed with straw and animal dung left to dry in the sun, while the roof is supported by wooden poles and covered in bundles of brushwood.[2] In the Shit Museum, this project has also been transformed creatively, yet on the basis of archaeological data. The circular base structure of the hut was reproduced – with a diameter of four metres and a height of 56 centimetres – using around 230 bricks, each trapezoidal in shape (16x20x40 cm, h 14) laid out on four rows and covered in clay and ‘digestate’, a particular fertilising substance obtained by processing the cow dung produced in Castelbosco. The last row of bricks contains a number of seeds of wheat (among the main elements for feeding cows as well as human beings) while will germinate over time to create a golden circle around the top. The project has been carried out in collaboration with the designer Tommaso Mancini, the creator of the Orto Brick, a ‘green design’ line promoting the spread of horticulture in urban and domestic contexts, and featuring little clay bricks with the seeds of various plants inside them so as grown directly at home (www.tommasomancini.com).

In the same room, there are two works by the Italian artist Claudio Costa who worked by alternating and mixing research of a paleontological, anthropological and alchemical nature. His reflection on natural materials, the tools of human labour and the ancient rituals of various populations of the Earth led to a heterogeneous and experimental career, following the guiding light of the intertwining of man, nature and culture. His analysis of the use and form of objects and their comparison with nature allowed him to discover their origin and their relationship with the history of the human race. The work L’uomo, la natura, la cultura (‘Man, Nature, Culture’, mixed media and photographs, 82x112.5cm, c. 1975) brings together the portrait of a man from the Somali Danakil tribe, natural vegetable and animal elements, and the images of two harpoons of the Magdalenian and the Lower Magdalenian eras. The work Capanna a Ksar Esegir (Tangeri) Marocco (‘Hut in Ksar Esegir, Tangiers, Morocco’, photography and mixed media, nine elements, each approx. 35.5x45cm, 1975) analyses the development of a Moroccan hut near Tangiers, portrayed over nine images with verbo-visual interventions, notes, plans and the application of vegetable and animal elements.

The idea of the Castelbosco Hut may take on numerous meanings at the basis of the Shit Museum: dung as a ‘positive’ element, multipurpose and functional, bearer of ‘life’ in culture and nature, i.e. in architecture, animal breeding and agriculture. What’s more, several walls of the castle are ‘decorated’ and ‘plastered’ with layers of ‘digestate’, further testifying to the versatility of ‘dung goods’.

Gaspare Luigi Marcone (April 2015)


[1] For further information on these projects, cf. C. Chiodero, L’habitat in terra cruda nello sviluppo rurale del nord dell’India: esperienze nella ricostruzione post-terremoto nel distretto del Kachchh, World in progress 2, Turin Polytechnic, Turin, 2008, passim.

[2] Cf.: C. Morigi Govi, I nostri antenati vivevano qui. Ricostruita ai Giardini Margherita una capanna villanoviana, in “Bologna. Mensile dell’Amministrazione comunale”, 3 (1989), p. 16; In visita a... La capanna villanoviana, scientific committee: C. Morigi Govi, A. Dore, Museo Civico Archeologico, Bologna, 2003; Museo Civico Archeologico of Bologna, La capanna villanoviana, Bologna City Council, Bologna, 1988. The hut in the Margherita Gardens was produced by the Museo Civico Archeologico of Bologna, designed by the architect R. Merlo; the roof was built by B. Rossetti, and the walls by REN Strade. The Shit Museum would like to give special thanks to A. Dore for her scientific backing and for granting use of the relative imagery.