Design and Building

We care deeply about the aesthetic and impact of everything that is created on the land. How a construction sits on the land, how it affects others who frequent the land, what it adds and what it takes away are some of the considerations to be explored.

We aim to create everything as much as possible from materials that are on the land or that can be sourced as locally as possible.  And we are regularly researching new methods and approaches as we dive deeper into our understanding of what the landscape around us provides and how we can work with it.

We avoid using concrete and cement and use stone work for anything that needs to be a little longer lasting. Foundations, steps and retaining walls are all made of stone. We have abundant schist on the land but it can be small and is not so strong, so we mix is with stone that we can purchase at a very reasonable cost from a local quarry.

Here is some of the first stone work we did. The video shows Servan and Felipe working with Stephen on the retaining wall around Clares yurt. Stephen introduced us to both the art and the physical sport of working with stone.

This following video shows Els and Maylis working on the very first mud building we explored. Manu who talks in the intro introduced us to Cob (mud) building combined with wooden framing. We loved the feeling of being inside a cob space and as we have an abundance of good clay we took the method to heart. Since that build we have greatly developed the basic technique. Improving it to better fit our experiences of actually living in one of those dwellings as well as improving on the quality and efficiency of construction.

Servan has been developing further design and build approaches exploring more complex geometric structures such as geodomes and wooden henges that can also support heavy earthen roofs.

We developed a mix of materials that combines some lime with the cob along with a large percentage of cork, chopped straw and some wood chips. We got the cork from running our small pruned cork tree branches through our wood chipper (it is important to keep an eye on the amount of wood to cork and keep the cork % over 80% to 20% wood for a light, well insulating structure. So the size of the branches you chip matters). For our larger projects we ended up buying large sacks cork granules as we needed a large volume of material. This mix yields a very strong and light version of material that has much better insulating properties than pure cob, great for keeping out the hot summers. We called it’cork crete’.

Going toward some of the more refined structures, here is a playlist of a short series of videos of Servan working on one of his experimental structures called a Pentome. His goal was to create a building that he could make entirely on his own, including placing the rock foundations. Help was of course always appreciated.