Yeah. For real. Thanks, Sundog School of Natural Building.
wwoofers at Roseman Creek Ranch. It's also a piece of art. We used no powertools during the entire construction, with the exception of a chainsaw to cut straw bales in half for one of the walls - a step that could have been skipped, as it happens. Oh, and we did screw the doorjambs into place with an electric drill. Four screws. That was it. The ridgepoles were stripped of their bark by hand. The gorgeous redwood mullion for the windows was chiseled into shape. Holes were made with a brace and bit. And there was no part of the construction process that I, a 5' 2" twenty-four-year old in only moderately decent shape, couldn't do myself.
That's right. I could now go out and build this house. Oh, I'd need some help - though not right away. Crazy though it sounds, most of what you see here I could, given the time, do all by myself.
Of course, I wouldn't want to do it alone. Because, you see, there's no reason to. One of the amazing things our teachers told us is that the natural building community is huge, generous, and generally awesome. Stay in touch, we were told, and when the time comes to build your project, let us know - because there are tons of folks who will want to come and work on it with you. Because natural builders are like that. I grew up in urban sprawl and I don't have much sense of community, but here's a group of people who are passionate, creative, and dedicated to helping each other. I don't know if I would have personally connected with the people who came to the workshop individually if I'd met them at, say, a party - but as a group, they were kind, hard-working, mutually supportive, and totally delightful to be around, and together we built something absolutely lovely. If that's not community, I don't know what is.
|Here's the completed cottage before the living roof goes on, a|
couple of days after we left. You can see the east window in
place on the right. View is the same as the foundation image,
above. Image via Sundog School of Natural Building.
Yes, plumbing is harder, and one of the conveniences of buying a ready-made house. But the revelation for me didn't lie so much in "omg building houses is like totally easy!" as much as it did in "omg I can be an architect after all." You may recall that I wanted to be an architect when I was a kid - I wanted to be Julia Morgan, in fact - and that I gave it up because I realized that I was going to have to go to school for a zillion years and it would be incredibly boring and I totally wasn't going to get to make fantastical mansions right away and would have to design hideous apartment buildings instead. (So I gave it up for a dream of instant gratification - that well-known quick 'n' easy-peasy process, filmmaking. You may laugh in derision, I'll understand.)
|Here I am, building a wall. Photo by Hind Baghdadi.|
|For "primitive" building, check out Ad Deir, the monastery|
at Petra, Jordan. Possibly built as far back as 312 BC.
What now, modern architecture? Yeah, that's what
I thought. Photo via Wikimedia.
Sort of. I mean, cob building is not going to save the world, as our teachers kept telling us. It's not like everyone should rush out and build a cob house. The life-changing moment didn't lie in thinking "Aha, I now have the technology with which to save mankind!" It was much more personal than that. It was, aha, there is a safe, beautiful, easy way to build structures that are powerful and meaningful. I don't need millions of dollars and a second Frank Lloyd Wright to create a place that in its very physical being is conducive to an experience of joy. No, I've got everything I need right here in my own hands and feet. And that really is a revelation.