Rusty Orner, of Quiet Creek Farm, in PA, took the idea of insulating an oven floor with recycled beer bottles and applied it to a yurt he was building as a classroom and bunk space for students and interns. On leveled ground, they made a rubble trench, covered with gravel bags and capped with mortar and slate, to support the lattice walls of the yurt. They filled the thirty foot diameter donut with packed shale, a thin layer of sand, and then 5,000 beer bottles. The empty bottles provide four inches of insulation and a thermal break to keep cold from migrating into the floor. Rusty . . .
Muddy Creek charter school in Philomath commissioned this mud project as the initial step in creating an "outdoor classroom." All 60 kids, K-5, participated in 2 days of playdough brainstorming and design, and six days of mud. Parents and neighbors contributed random prunings of willow, fruitwood, and forsythia that we wove into a rough hut; the mud came up out of a hole in the ground, and we ended up making a lovely cob bench and this "hug hut." The hut was designed to "last" for just one winter, and then get torn down so new students could make their own -- instead of taking care of . . .
Maya AviÃ±a teaches fine arts at CSU in Pueblo, Colorado. For about the past ten years, sheâ€™s been immersed in natural building, which she has also made into the focus of her research at the college. Last year, she invited me to come be an â€œartist in residenceâ€ and do a mural project. The challenge was to bring life into dead space:Â a bleak, harsh, hard-edged, institutional (college) courtyard of grey and yellow concrete pressed down by massive, overhanging soffit walls of more cast concrete. It looked (and felt) like a pen in a zoo designed so the animals below couldnâ€™t . . .