Wednesday, March 19, 2008
A Hybrid Structure with Mosaic Urbanite Foundation, Stick-Frame Walls with Cob Infill and a Living Roof
– by Kat Sawyer
Building with earth has always ignited my imagination. Ever since childhood I've been drawn to places that combine the safety and comfort of an interior space with the excitement of being outdoors. The desire to break out of the box and create living architecture is shared by many people in the field of ecological design.
When I look back to other inspirations on my path to being an earth builder, my family's trip to Mesa Verde in Colorado was a formative experience. Walking among the adobe ruins as a teen, I could not predict how strongly I would connect to the experience looking backwards.
My love for earth building was solidified when several things aligned themselves to make it possible for me and my colleague Surane Gunesekara to design and build a cob tool shed in a San Francisco community garden.
Many hands and feet took part in the endeavor including the gardeners and their families, bay area residents with an interest in green building, our friends, and many other random people we met along the way.
Some of the most memorable moments for me involve intergenerational relationships, like a grandparent playing in the mud with his grandson. Younger kids instantly connect with earth building. Teenagers usually don't want to get dirty at first, but once they take the plunge they end up having a great time just like the rest of us!
Earth building brings people together – it is a beautiful expression of community spirit. Building with cob is hard work and very labor-intensive so it requires a group to be done effectively. Earth building by its very nature must be done with the help of others.
The real fun of community art is letting the design evolve over time and with the input of the participants… Many elements of our earthen structure changed from their original intent, including the roof and the walls. The people who helped us build the cob tool shed left their own unique marks (dare I say footprints?) on it.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
– by Rainer Warzecha
Keeping the heritage of the natural alive!
Our group of artists, united in the earthwork-artnet and Interglotz-team, has been erecting adobe playgrounds and sculptures made of clay and natural structures (using wood, bamboo, stone) since 1990. We are located in
In fact, our village is in some way reconnecting to the roots and heritage of architecture in its development. We use something very old: pure earth. In fact, the material has probably already has been built with at some point in the near or distant past. In any case, the resource is as local as you can get.
As in the old times, the time span between spinning and discussing an idea to a resultant building or sculpture is quite short. Also, children have the chance to erect something large, not the usual matchbox-size mock-up that is reserved for them in most cases. They get to experience shelter-building as a natural process, and get to experience the value of many hands working together. Our kind of teamwork supports a spirit of community and identification with the structure by the process of building a hut or house. The playground is made by those who are going to use it when it’s done.
Beneath the communicative, psychological and social experiences is the specific sensual attractions of clay. Often I heard that kids termed Lehm in their own words as Leben, which means “live“. And indeed that is a central truth of the material and element – earth – that we deal with.
“Makunaima” is a symbolic figure from South American religion and philosophy. Part of the philosophy states that kids are ‘elder spirits’, bringing in their own viewpoints, a heritage from beyond, when they come to birth. They have magic forces, as many of us who are parents will agree. This legendary figure Makunaima tells us more: we as adults should try to keep the child in ourselves alive (trying to follow this Bob Dylan song line “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now!”).
And so we do. Trying to keep it young, seeing things through the eyes of a child sometimes.
Clay or mud is an unformed, basic substance. EVERYONE can get it free, with no costs – or only cost of transporting it. Building shelter using the materials around us also is part of our human heritage. Hopefully we can retain this, just as we all should have the freedom to breathe fresh air and drink pure water.
In this way, we tap into the children’s fantasies, and reconnect to the past and the spirit of traditional native art of African, Mayan, and Aboriginal roots. Beyond the TV representations that we consume daily as we travel forward in modern life, here we look backward from time to time, to reconnect authentically with those human roots. As well, we try to reintroduce joy and play into the process of work, instead of keeping them separate! For example, music performances often flow spontaneously from periods of intense work.