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Sustainable building is really tricky.
“Are they finished then?” asked one potential guest of the Hobbity domes, looking to book for half term.
“Well, No. Err maybe. I’m not sure”
The answer is, in fact, a question.
What is finished?
If you’ve read any of the other posts about the Hobbity Domes then you will appreciate this is a bit of a journey, over which all the players only have partial control. Sustainable building in its purest – and most political – form is about allowing things to take their own path. It’s about accepting we are not entirely in control of the process and that we might not know, when we start, where we might be at the end.
It’s about reorganising our perspective and handing off the hysterical levels of control, of everything, that we have come to see as normal. It’s about acknowledging that what we think we want isn’t necessarily, ultimately, what, we need.
One of my favourite quotes from one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s clients back in the 30s… “Mr Wright didn’t build the house for the people we were. He built the house for the people he knew we would become”. Maybe there’s a bit of that here, where expectations are frustrated by design and guests are encouraged to reconsider their accepted norms.
But above all, this process is about honesty and integrity. You can’t embark on a haphazard building programme with only the vaguest of plans of making something out of mud and bits of barbed wire and then pretend it’s something else – that would be against the spirit of the thing.
However, fantastic though the outcome has been, we also have to accept that there might be limits. That when you arrive at Destination Crazy you might just have to reverse the car before you can park.
The cavelike domes came out a bit too, well, cavelike. So we added skylights in the roof. The surface finish of the walls was a bit too ‘authentic’. So we have refinished them with layers of insulation and render which is a smoother, whiter and lighter by the day. They were occasionally chilly, so we added woodburners. At each stage we thought we had finished only to find we had to revisit them as time went on.
Like when we looked at the adobe walls in the loos, two months down the line. In reality, could we really live with real mud as the final finish on the walls? Especially when they suddenly sprouted mushrooms in the Autumn!!
Logical really – local mud on the walls will lead to local mushrooms in September. And very pretty they were too! We’re always going on about provenance and local sourcing, well here it was – on our doorstep. Well, just inside the doorsteps in fact.
So, in attempting to get close to the fundamental nature of shelter and heighten our relationship with our environment, had we taken one step too close for comfort?
Guest opinion was divided. Some wanted one more level of sophistication, others wanted to form barricades to protect them from any further attempts at gentrification.
The Hobbity domes need to stay on the wild side of what can be built or they risk slipping from the ‘Realm of the Extraordinary’ into that of mediocrity – which would never do.
So, a few weeks ago we “made our decision.” (finest x factor accents)
And that was… (drum roll).
Another round of tinkering would be in order!!
Yes, it was back out with the tools. The mushrooms, delightful and highly amusing as they were, had to go! The deeply characterful cracks of the adobe walls are being toned down and smoothed with a fantastic terracotta clay plaster as we speak, the showers are in line for a fine layer of Moroccan Tadelakt (once we can work out who to do it) and, outside, the kitchen shells have been extended to include brilliant new rocket stoves.
So. Still characterful, still sustainable, still natural but hopefully, finally, finished.