While not having much of a history of watching videos of this kind, I have recently seen some very interesting (and very different) recordings of ‘timelapse builds’ in the wild or outdoors, which lead out to a couple of interview videos where people are living with permaculture (in one instance) in a cob built house in Canada, or living in a tent on an island. As directions of return they are quite fascinating.
The first build video involves this small and hypercompact cabin which feels like it borrows from boat building to some extent. Its well put together and seems to have given its builder the opportunity to take this form of work on for others. Its unclear how much it is an attempt to build a space for living, but its well done and very enjoyable.
Watching these interviews with this couple who’ve taken on the permaculture and have built their house from trees, wood and cob (straw infused clay-mud and water) is very instructive. As a pragmatic guide to different prospects of direct sustenance and capacity from the land – and there is a balance to be had with visits to the nearby town and neighbours – it says a lot in a short space of time.
As a low impact, low investment living situation, this man’s experience of setting himself up to live on an island – not involving any real sustenance from the land, is almost as much a study of solitude in the context of a long stay while he draws from savings. Nonetheless his setup, free on a swedish island (with conditional permission from the owner – he must not cut down any trees) is most distinctly one of palpable closeness to nature – saying he reponded to an ‘inner calling to get back to nature’ .
He also guides us somewhat by connecting this feeling with those moment of life he’d previously experienced as someone who went to the wild and spent time in tents, with friends; and with that feeling of extraordinary beauty and belonging to nature and its places, of how it would be to live completely in such spaces. Here, he has made – for a while at least – such a jump.
At one point he says in relation to a fresh understanding of seemingly basic things – how beautiful it is to have a bucket of hot water to wash, or how special it is to speak to a friend for an hour or two ‘these emotions and everything else, every thought is just more intense out here’.
Without a doubt the most extraordinary of videos, with no music, no dialogue and no visible help. Just a young woman carving and forming the earth into the shape of a place to live.
Some of those issues mentioned in the second video – specifically the lack of planning consent for the cob home bring to mind the achievements and difficulties of a relatively seminal figure in the world of sustainable building, the American architect Michael Reynolds. The primary originator of the building, development and honing (over forty five years) of the Earthship style of building. The documentary Garbage Warrior about Reynold’s project to initiate and refine his Earthship design and build using recycled materials in New Mexico is fascinating and reveals what a herculean struggle it was to convince local planning officials that there was merit in using methods and materials that differed from the norm. Reynolds was even struck off by the American Institute of Architects, before being reinstated amid an eventual recognition that the Earthship has an absolutely singular potential.
In this video, Reynolds presents the fundamental principles of the Earthship design and the subtle redefinition of thinking that comes with it. Specifically away from the mystification of distance prevalent in the specialised fields of developed world building routine codifications. It is also that these designs of course have the potential to remove houses from the grid and from the mainstay utilities that are feedcores of capitalist doctrine.
Per Wikipedia: In Garbage Warrior, Reynolds describes one of his new homes, called the Phoenix: ‘There’s nothing coming into this house, no power lines, no gas lines, no sewage lines coming out, no water lines coming in, no energy being used … We’re sitting on 6,000 gallons of water, growing food, sewage internalized, 70 degrees [21° C] year-round … What these kind of houses are doing is taking every aspect of your life and putting it into your own hands … A family of four could totally survive here without having to go to the store’.
Here‘s an excellent episode from French sustainability explorers Max and Jeremy, from their ten day visit with Reynolds at his New Mexico compound and school, as they say at the end ‘we realised that earthships aren’t just houses, they are like living entities which when you take care of them, in return they take care of you, its in harmony with its occupants and its environment’.