Saturday, April 11, 2015

Dream home

I'll have this one.

It was built by Paulina Wojciechowska, a Polish architect living in the UK who gives workshops in natural building techniques in Poland.

She and her natural building buddies have a Natural Building foundation sort of thing in Britain, and also give workshops in Spain.

Straw Bale workshop near Gatwick airport, (believe it or not)

This workshop is a wonderful opportunity to gain hands-on experience of constructing and plastering a real straw bale building that will be used for visitor accommodation.

The straw bale workshop will be held in a lovely farm set in rolling english countryside 15 minutes drive from London Gatwick airport. Paulina has designed a dream home which will be built from natural materials at the workshop site of Oaklands Farm over the next two years.
What You Will Learn

Hands-on experience of all the stages in straw bale wall construction, and an introduction to the plastering of a real structure:

Straw Bale Workshop UK (5 days)

-Raising straw bale walls
-How to tie the straw bale walls together
-Making a wall plate and compressing a wall
-Installation of door and window frames
-Managing the use of bales to maintain wall strength
-Recognizing the clay found on our land and understanding how to use it for building
-Preparation and application of the first 2 coats of clay plaster onto the straw bale wall

And another "Planning your dream natural building home" that involves all the down-to-earth stuff like

Choosing your site
Preparation of a site plan
Dealing with the site’s characteristics such as earth types, ground topology, etc.
Creating a house design to suite your lifestyle
The balance of costs: money, time, quality.
How to find your balance point and cost your project in a realistic way
Working with architects, builders and volunteers
Fitting the project into your life.
A design example: the amazing 5 bedroom house being built at Oaklands Farm.

Technologies choices for the house structure:

Foundations: types of foundations, pros and cons, which to use in different site situations, relative costs and effort involved.
Roof structures: types of roofs, pros and cons, how to choose the best roof structure for your project, relative costs and effort involved.
Insulation: a discussion of different solutions and their relative effectiveness.
Walls: an overview of natural building wall technologies: straw bale, cordwood, earthbag, cobb, rammed earth, old tyres.
Floors: an overview of the different technologies, their pros and cons.
Guidelines for designing wall structures using different technologies
Balancing your idealogical ideas with your building inspector’s logical, legal ones.
Hands-on experience: building walls for the Oaklands Farm project from cordwood, earthbag and cobb.

An overview of planning and installing services, with an emphasis on specific considerations for houses built from natural materials:

Electrical systems
Plumbing systems
Heating systems.
Waste water drainage systems
Rainwater drainage systems
Internal shelving and structures.


I do rather wish that this whole thing weren't so inordinately tied up with silly hippie pseudo-spirituality... "Earthmother Dwelling: Listening to the elements, exploring inner freedom"..."earth mother"... Srsly?

"In my ‘Earthmother Dwelling’ that I built at Cal-Earth, these are some of the things that I aimed to achieve. The ‘Earthmother Dwelling’ was built in a close dialogue with the essence of the site. Listening to the elements, letting the earth tell me what it wanted to become. Being from the architectural icons of traditional cultures. Listening openly to my inner voices, letting them guide me to achieve coherence and happiness."

Um...Yeah, ok. Whatever.

But I don't suppose that you'll necessarily catch a case of Hippie-dum if you live in a straw bale house you've built yourself. And just imagine going to one of these workshops and being the only nice, friendly Trad Catholic these people ever meet. I find that with these kinds of hippies, they tend to be more innocent than mean about beliefs, and more open-minded than you might at first think. Sing the Divine Office in Latin and Gregorian three times a day in your off hours and see what they do. Might be an interesting experiment.

And it's pretty easy to get behind other aspects of the... err... philosophy (I suppose you could call it):

At the moment, my ideal house is one which lives in such harmony with its environment, a house that is difficult to notice, like an animal that blends into its surroundings. So many houses appear like warts on our landscape.

Though you wouldn't know it from all the (ahem) sharing I do online, I am actually pretty keen on that idea of Philip Neri's: "Amare nescire," to "Love to be unknown."



Anonymous said...

As they say here in Texas, "That's as sweet as it can be!"

Louise L

Gerald said...

You remind me of one of the books that changed my life: "Pollution and the Death of Man: A Christian View of Ecology" by (believe it or not) Francis Schaeffer. A copy of this little book happened to be lying next to me at a cafe, and I had nothing better to do, so I picked it up. It put into eloquent words the rejection of the Machine that I had in my gut since as long as I can remember, and my reaction to the book was to go pick up Tolkien for the first time.

He gets into an extended discussion about the hippy counterculture and a kernel of the Real that exists there, something thrown away by so many modern Christians. His book is a call for Christians to pick it up again and rebaptise it. An excerpt:

"The hippies of the 1960s did understand something. They were right in fighting the plastic culture, and the church should have been fighting it too... More than this, they were right in the fact that the plastic culture - modern man, the mechanistic worldview in university textbooks and in practice, the total threat of the machine, the establishment technology, the bourgeois upper middle class - is poor in its sensitivity to nature... As a utopian group, the counterculture understands something very real, both as to the culture as a culture, but also as to the poverty of modern man's concept of nature and the way the machine is eating up nature on every side."

Gerald said...

I particularly recall Dr Schaeffer describe the time he went to speak at a church. Adjacent to the church was a hippie commune, and the homes and gardens there were in beautiful harmony with the surrounding countryside. In contrast, the church was a big concrete pustule on the landscape, surrounded by acres of pavement to accommodate the churchgoers' noisy and gas-guzzling automobiles. He described the juxtaposition as a wake-up call to his own complacency: What has happened to the Christian witness to beauty and tradition?