Dream Seed Farms

Sunday, May 1, 2011


After our first weekend workshop for this year's Permaculture course, we were given a homework assignment. Over the next few months while working around the PC farm, we are going to build an earthbag house in the garden. The idea was to have a small (100 sq feet / 9 sq meters) comfy place to relax and for the instructor's kids to play in. All twenty of us students were tasked with designing a building that we would personally like to see built in that space. 

We interviewed the instructor and his wife, evaluated the site with the carpenter that will guide our building and had a great group discussion about the shape and function of the little house. We broke into smaller groups, and for the first time all weekend I was able to work with Michie, and two others. The main idea that came out of our group was that of a spiral.

One guy noticed that the PC instructor had a relief of a snail on the front entrance, and Michie found a small painting of a snail and a poem about the 'slow life' and living at 'my pace.' I mentioned that one of the underlying patterns recognized by PC is that of the spiral, symbolizing a perpetual and dynamic renewal.

We are free to create our own design, but I realized that a spiral house of earthbag walls was so similar to an idea I had sketched before we knew we were even moving to Japan. So, I decided to pursue the spiral house idea, knowing that, while they might not actually build my idea at the PC farm, the process of designing and laying out a building would be beneficial to us when it comes time to do the same for our own home.

All we basically needed was a rough sketch, but I am terrible with a pencil, so I tried my hand at clay. This may be arguably as bad as any sketch I could make, but it was so rewarding to actually build up a model, even if it is only five inches high so far! It kinda looks like something a kid might slap together as a fort for some Playmobile or GI Joe figures...

Crude Representation of a Spiral
Appointed in the Finest of Materials
Inner Wall as Staircase and Rocket Stove
Group Toilets, Benches or Monster Teeth?
I still have to build the roof out of some twigs, and but a little stove pipe in the chimney. I am thinking of a small loft over the bench and even a reciprocal roof. The little silver tea canister represents a rocket stove that I would love to build into the house. The flue would run under the bench heating it up as the smoke exits the chimney.

Limited by the rigidity of the board I built it on and the lack of clay to build more, I was not able to show my intention of continuing the spiral effect of coming in the front door and being gently urged to turn inwards towards yourself. The staircase wall also reinforces the idea of descending into (as you walk in) and ascending from (as you exit the house) the earth itself. Ideally the inner floor would continue to spiral down a few more levels, and the bench would be on the lowest part, sunken into the earth itself several feet below grade. A reciprocal roof would also add to the spiral effect as you look up and ascend the stair case or leave by the front door.

Michie has to do her own design too, but I think that whatever we decide on, we will be able to integrate our two ideas into a space we can live and work in. We already discussed a few conceptual ideas for a series of little buildings like this in a small compound with a courtyard in the center and covered walk ways connecting the building as the outer walls of the yard.

I will try to post some pics later when I finish the model. I have to have it done by our next PC class at the end of May. Since we will finally be on Ajishima next week, I thought I would use some beach sand for the plaster and twigs and branches for the roof structure.

I am sure there will be several refinements over time, but this is definitely a structure we can envision ourselves living in.

Oh, and in keeping with our theme, the house is called the "Dream Spiral!"

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