Natural Building with Kevin Rowell

This week has been amazing! Kevin is a fantastic teacher and it’s so fun to see the things he’s been apart in creating. We’ve been spending the mornings in the workshop experimenting with different natural building components, and spending the afternoon diving even deeper into ideas and concepts. It’s insane how  many questions I have been having.. Luckily the majority are getting answered 🙂

The first couple of days we focused on big questions, such as: What is Natural Building? What is a “natural” material? What does Natural Building look like? What is Sustainability? We’ve been going around the room and asking everyone to say one word or a one minute description of their opinions, and somehow they are all SO DIFFERENT! But at the same time very similar.. This exercise has really been helping me understand that everyone thinks differently, and for the most part everyone is right. It’s such a great thing when the options are endless and everyone can express themselves differently, within a similar foundation or framework. We’ve also been focusing on this equation of materials + method = design (in a place). This is apparently a really big deal. Ha Kevin keeps coming back to it and trying to help us understand how this basic equation can help explain so much of what natural building is. It represents the same thing as the exercises, a huge range of possibilities all within a similar framework or foundation.

I got to choose my own material and method to focus on and research these past few days. Since I’m from Utah and I love that area and climate, I chose to focus on Earth as my material and Adobe as my method. Mark Stimpson introduced me to Adobe last October in my Natural Building class, where we spent two weeks in Texas and built a small adobe home. Mark encouraged us to read about Hassan Fathy and explore the origins of adobe in our own time (and the twenty six hour bus ride to and from Texas). Mark had no experience with adobe so alot of our trip was spent experimenting and learning together, but in the end we were able to accomplish something amazing.

ImageThis morning we experimented in the workshop with Kevin and it was really fun to get our hands in the materials and see how everything felt. We tried several soil tests (ribbon, washing, ball) and the various reasons we did those things. We also started combining sand, clay, fibers, and water to see how things came together and what it felt like. It was fun to have a masters perspective and see his techniques and small tips. It’s exciting to see what can be accomplished with these simple materials. Yesterday I doodled on my notebook “START NOW” with small words like design, brainstorm, observe, and discuss. This natural building movement starts with each of us. We really can make a difference together and help each other explore different perspectives.

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