I was fortunate enough to visit the mud huts back in 2015 before they were destroyed. At the time, the owner Joseph “Isseppi” Diliberti, was battling the county over fire prevention citations which he couldn’t afford. Places like this are so far and few in between–especially in San Diego. The mud huts were not just an architectural work of art, they were his family’s home for almost 30 years.
You learn very quickly listening to his interviews how much of a badass he was! Isseppi is a Vietnam veteran with many crazy incidences which helped mold him to the man he became. He was also a former building contractor giving him the necessary skills to build this house. There is a fascinating video of him that I recommend everyone watch. It documents the making of the home with a candid interview of his alternative ways of looking at life. It’s lovely.
“I don’t believe man should be living in a box,” Diliberti said. “Somehow, somewhere along the line they took us out of a round house and put us in a square box. They put us in a square box and when we die, they bury us in a box. When you live in a round house there’s no limits. Everything is infinity. Everything is smooth flowing. When you live in a box, you’re always running into limits. The moon, earth, sun are all round. When the wind blows, it blows round. Nature makes round, man makes square. We need to go back to the round house and get out of the box.”
Visiting his home you got an immediate sense of love and warmth. There was a ton of attention to detail attached to stories that only the lucky few will ever hear. I wish I could have gotten a tour with the man himself. Dilberti said on building his home: “I remember cleaning the land and pushing boulders. Just getting them out of the way. And there was one boulder I couldn’t get out of the way and that’s the one that remains today. That’s where I put my fireplace. When the fireplace was finished I built the entire house around it. ”
The house was built from indigenous red clay that he dug from a hill on his property & kneaded it together in a hole. He then molded the clay into bricks by hand. Using only a bucket, scaffold board and wooden mold, he built the entire home. The home was finished off from a kiln built inside the dome which fired for 36 hours, creating a huge bonfire inside. With steam rising from above, the heat sealed the bricks and glaze coating.
Once the firing was finished a “storm-proof, earthquake-proof, fireproof, low-maintenance, earth-friendly housing model for the future” was created. His home represented the beginning of a much larger dream though. He schemed of his design being created throughout the word, especially in Third World countries. It is truly a no-cost home, built from clay that sits below all around us. No electricity, no running water. Primitive living, or “glamping” as we call it today.
The legal story is messy, long and well documented here. I am most concerned with this page encompassing the love this man had which was poured into his intricate craftsmanship. When one learns that this type of gem exists, we need to try to hold onto it. Let the destruction of this home be a reminder to everyone to always put up the fight for what we truly believe in. If we had all collectively fought for this, those homes and Isseppi would probably still be with us. Instead the huts are destroyed and Isseppi, although happy, now lives with a tribe in Northern California.