Experimental Homestead

The Over Sculpted House: designing for the unforseen

“….there are fundamental architectural truths and functions which can be incorporated into almost any building and the fewer permanent manifestations we employ beyond those basic design elements, the more we might leave the structure open to variations in it’s potential use, and this point is worth considering in a building design.”



Civil planning has always been one of the most challenging undertakings here at turkeysong.  As an example I designed the same 120 square foot building repeatedly after moving here.  I kept moving it to different sites and using different materials and shapes.  So really it wasn’t the same building at all, it was just intended to have similar functions.  But what were those functions?  I couldn’t always figure that out either!  What would happen in and around that building in the future?  Who knew?  That building has now morphed into a larger structure known as the cottage which is essentially an almost square box with a loft, which still remains without a known long term use.  It’s not that we were just building something merely for no reason, but its intended early use is no longer relevant and the potential long term use seems somewhat dubious at this point, all within the space of a few years.

“Does the building serve us or do we serve the building?”

At one point I was inclined to use cob for that building (a material of clay, straw and aggregate much like adobe but used to sculpt buildings rather than to make bricks).  I planned and drew a lot and even started excavating a totally inappropriate spot for it which I eventually had re-assembled by a bulldozer that was handy.  At the time I was reading Michael Smith and Ianto Evan’s excellent book The Hand Sculpted House and ran across the recommendation in Ianto’s design section to sculpt your house into specific use niches to take the greatest advantage of a small space (I really do like this book and highly recommend it to anyone considering building with cob, but I couldn’t resist the title re: this annecdote.  I am also friends with Michael Smith but, alas, no one escapes critical analysis, and I hope I won’t either :).  The idea is that you can, with cob anyway, build in very specific shapes as areas for very specific uses like a desk or a sitting area, kitchen, phone etc…  With this approach you eliminate “wasted” space or space that is, as the author put it, “use neutral” or having no specific use. Continue reading

November 15, 2011 Posted by | Infrastructure, Philosophy, Rants etc... | 9 Comments