Natural building: physical or personal?

Michael Beck's picture

As the third consecutive week of wind and rain blows ashore here in Portugal, Eric and I have temporarily postponed thatching the roof on our current build project with hopes of a soon-to-come sunny day. We've retreated to a cozy office space with motivation to continue building creatively in a different manner.

In the last several weeks, we have had many new people arrive at the project, curious about the building and us as people, eager to learn and get involved in building a natural structure themselves. We have done our best to empower people to be creative, to create and contribute to a project that is not "ours" but rather an open collaboration of every person that has picked up a handful of cob or pulled a piece of cane for a wattle and daub wall. Through the experience of leading several build projects, I've had an epiphone that natural building is not only a tool for building physical structures, but rather an opportunity to build on intangible personal levels as well. This is certainly worth exploring more.

Cob Cottage sculptureStages of every bio-construction project are mentally, physically and emotionally challenging. One of the most difficult parts for me has the emotional realm -- the revolving door of new faces every week, accepting that my life is a bit more public than I would prefer or are immediately comfortable with, dealing with the monotony of building a cob wall for three weeks straight, and much more. In essence, the biggest challenges I have encountered in natural building are ultimately not even directly related to the building itself. The biggest challenges I've encountered have been mine own, within myself in relation to my environment!

I am more and more convinced that taking part in a natural build project will emphasize in yourself what you need to work on most. Ultimately, you will learn and develop practical techniques that you can use to build a natural structure. I can now look and feel a batch of cob and know it needs more sand or more clay, whereas two years ago I would have no clue. However, the intangible skills learned in the human relationships that take place in a natural build project are equally, if not more, important!

This philosophy has its roots in one of our biggest sources of inspiration in starting thePOOSH.org -- how can a natural build project be an open space, a space where anybody can randomly walk up and express their desire to help and in return feel empowered, feel useful and involved and able to express the creative potential that resides in every one of us? Before I got involved in natural building, I didn't know that I needed to work on myself and empower myself, instill confidence in myself, before I could feel comfortable empowering others. Granted, this is an ongoing journey but what a revelation that natural building can be a tool for self-edification as well...and that this can lead to self-improvement in those around you as well!!!

This blog post was seriously influenced by a section in The Hand-Sculpted House entitled "For Your Edification." Furthermore, this warm book is essential reading for natural builders, a celebration of personal growth through the practice of building with nature.

The Hand-Sculpted House

2 comments

Page Nall's picture

I have been finding community minded farms and huge pieces of land where folks are needing help. 
Seems 83 acres and 200 or more acre communities are still growing after all the years it took to develope them. Ohio and Missouri are two if these states. Dancing Rabbit Farm in Missouri can use all the help they can get. The Center for HumanDevelopement in Ohio is looking for folks to build on the land and/or manage the retreat center there. Contact Steven Jones mailto:blue.light.body@gmail.com  702-417-7958
Callum Leona's picture

You made a fine decision to hold up on the work on the roof. Anyways, I better go and get www.analyzedu.com to work on my research papers as quickly as possible.