[GSBN] Prefab hoe-down

John Swearingen jswearingen at skillful-means.com
Fri Feb 26 20:54:45 CST 2016


Bob, I think your task is clear now, should you decide to accept it.....to
create prefabricated components whose boundaries overlap, and which, when
put together, form a unified, relaxed whole.

John "Wavy Line" Swearingen


On Fri, Feb 26, 2016 at 10:59 AM Bob Theis <bob at bobtheis.net> wrote:

> Straw bale is indeed a big tent, guys, but what I am pointing out is that
> prefab straw bale  - *as currently practiced  - *reduces the size of that
> tent, with serious implications for wide scale uptake.
>
> Back to the experience of the 90’s: We had   prospective clients come in
> who said, “ If  our house could look 300 years old, that would be great. “
>  And I  chuckled  to myself, “ So you don’t want indoor plumbing or
> electricity…?”
>
>   But after I‘d heard versions of the same request a dozen times, I wasn’t
> laughing. These were ordinary folks, not looking to announce how  eco-funky
> or architecturally fashionable they were, and they saw a potential in straw
> bale so appealing they were willing to gamble on   a crazy new way of
> building.  If it was ecological and superinsulative,  fine, but they
> weren’t in love with the “ idea” of straw bale. They saw a  quality that
> had huge pull.
>
> Here was  cultural transforming potential, because emotional pull works a
> lot faster than “doing the right thing".    But what did  "looking 300
> years old”  mean?
>
> My conclusion was that they wanted  walls that weren’t taut and neutral.
> And panelization - *as currently practiced, again* -  strongly
> incentivizes taut, neutral walls.
>
> Of course you can ADD texture, color, craft, roundedness, etc.  to a
> neutral ground, but a veneer rarely  has the appeal of the full depth
> material . It’s a corrective, and by nature, superficial.
>
> Everyone has been in  renovated brick buildings where the original plaster
>  has been  laboriously removed. That labor, I  submit, is powered by the
> same emotional pull.
>
> I am NOT saying no one should be living with taut surfaces and sharp
> corners. Knock yourselves out, modernists.
>
>  But there is a deep widespread hunger for more intrinsic character than
> that, and if we lose sight of that in our efforts to bring the costs of
> straw bale down, we  “mainstream”  the material to its detriment.
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> On Feb 25, 2016, at 9:03 PM, John Swearingen <
> jswearingen at skillful-means.com> wrote:
>
> Many years ago, when we were building a strawbale for the Coppolas, Ellie
> Coppola gave us what has been a great "specification" for our bale/plaster
> finish--"As fine a finish as you can make it while still being a
> hand-finish." In other words, strive for excellence in craft.  We've had
> many clients who love strawbale and also want crisp edges and flat walls,
> but few of them have been anywhere close to finicky as is often found with
> drywall houses.
>
> We've also had a number of clients who want rounded and softer finishes,
> and also rougher, natural finishes and textures. I'm at the moment in a
> coffee shop, and notice a wide variety of textiles draped over my fellow
> patron's bodies--some rough, some smooth, some tight, some loose. I presume
> they picked out what they are wearing themselves, and are comfortable in
> what they're wearing....
>
> John "I'm Finnish" Souveringen
>
>
>
> On Thu, Feb 25, 2016 at 8:41 PM David Arkin, AIA <david at arkintilt.com>
> wrote:
>
>> "You can do anything with Straw Bales … except have skinny walls."
>> ---the inimitable Matts Myhrman
>>
>> We've had a good number of clients come to us saying they absolutely love
>> the idea of straw bale walls, but can we please have them be more flat and
>> have squarer corners?  Of course, being the modern-leaning architects that
>> we are, we oblige.  This has led to more folks finding us for this reason,
>> and thus a portfolio of bale projects that largely (but not exclusively)
>> feature more planar walls and sharper corners.
>>
>>
>> Do an image search on Houzz, or Dwell, or (if you dare) Architectural
>> Record Houses.  Rounded up to the nearest 1%, 100% of the images do not
>> feature a curved anything (except maybe an Eames Chair, or a Nelson Bubble
>> Lamp … btw, the house pictured above does have a curved roof).
>>
>> Derek makes some excellent points: that organic needn't be lumpy, and
>> prefab needn't be machine square.
>>
>> Straw Building is a big tent, with room for anything except skinny walls
>> (and who knows … that may be coming soon); Pre-Fab may be a good path to
>> bringing straw bale into a new and bigger sector of the mainstream, and
>> when we do there will be that many more people discovering their inner
>> Mickey Mouse kitchen desires when they image search on 'straw bale walls'
>> and get a taste of anything and everything that's possible.
>>
>>
>> David Arkin
>>
>>
>> On Feb 25, 2016, at 4:05 PM, Derek Stearns Roff <derek at unm.edu> wrote:
>>
>> I appreciate the organic aesthetic and the rounded corners mentioned by
>> Bob Theis and Robert Gay.  I’m curious, though, about how you see the
>> distribution curve of public/client interest, versus amount of
>> organicness.  In New Mexico, where I live, a large percentage of the
>> population appreciates the thick walls and rounded corners of traditional
>> adobe buildings.  Even if they wouldn’t pick that style for their own
>> house, they appreciate the look, and consider it attractive.  Many people
>> that I talk to are thrilled that strawbale walls are even thicker than
>> normal adobe walls.
>>
>> However, I see a very quick drop off in appreciation when “organic” moves
>> into “funky”.  At a guess, 90% of the people who like the organic, round
>> look of many adobes and some strawbale houses, would reject the Rachel
>> Shiamh home (Wales) that Robert included in his message.  Elegant curves
>> and gently undulating surfaces have a lot of fans; lumpy and irregular
>> doesn’t.  The dividing line will vary with the individual, but around here,
>> I think the bell curve is pretty steep, and “too organic” has limited
>> appeal.  As for Mickey Mouse’s Kitchen, something fun for Disney World
>> isn’t likely to be a style that many choose for their house.
>>
>> Pre-fab strawbale can have curves and organic character.  It would be
>> hard to reach the hobbit and hippie end of the spectrum.  And while I might
>> appreciate those modalities, I don’t think we are dropping off much of the
>> mainstream public, when we accept the range of forms that can be done with
>> pre-fab.
>>
>> Derek
>>
>> Derek Roff
>> derek at unm.edu
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> On Feb 25, 2016, at 3:19 PM, Bob Theis <bob at bobtheis.net> wrote:
>>
>> Chris,
>>
>> I am not at all surprised at the extent to which we agree. Seeing
>> pictures of that first bale house of yours made it quite clear that you
>> were okay with  walls that were not stiff  and straight!
>>
>> And I absolutely agree that making  low carbon buildings commonly
>> available by reducing their cost is a much  higher priority than  avoiding
>> machined edges.
>>
>> What I am hoping is that we don’t stop at the current approach  but  find
>> a way to have it both ways:  Let the bale walls remain BALE walls - not
>> wood boxes with bales in them -  AND  get them up and covered faster.
>>
>> This probably requires a different approach  to aggregating bales , like
>> ….*glueing* them into a panel?
>>
>> The point being, there’s an asset to bale walls  - the character we find
>> so appealing  - that we don’t want to lose.
>>
>>
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>>
>>
>> *  *  *  *  *
>> Arkin Tilt Architects
>> Ecological Planning & Design
>> 1101 8th St. #180, Berkeley, CA  94710
>> 510/528-9830 ext. 2#
>> www.arkintilt.com
>>
>> David Arkin, AIA, Architect
>> LEED Accredited Professional
>> CA #C22459/NV #5030
>>
>> Director, California Straw Building Association
>> www.strawbuilding.org
>> CASBA is a project of the Tides Center
>>
>> "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way."
>> — A. J. Muste
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
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