« Nothing happens by chance, everything is a matter of appointment » Paul Eluard wrote. Our trip took us in October to a small village, Kingston, in New Mexico, for the 20th edition of the « Natural building colloquium » organised by Builders Without Borders. If in the USA the general trend is to build quite impressive concrete villas rather than small straw houses, there is in this country a very dynamic movement to build differently. « The USA is the biggest energy consumer on this planet. And 50% of this energy is not used by cars or planes … instead it is consumed by houses, to build them first and then to heat them and keep them cool in summer… So here any change, even a small one, can make a huge difference» states Ianto Evans, one of the pioneers of this movement to build naturally, who welcomed us very warmly indeed.
20 years ago, Ianto and other eco-construction forerunners, such as Linda Smiley, Michael Smith, Matts Myhrman, Judy Knox, David Eisenberg, Sunray Kelly, Catherine Wanek… came from all around the USA to gather for a whole week in this very small village. The idea behind it all was to find the time to get to know one another, to exchange ideas and techniques so that they could all progress in their practices and for a collective dynamic to emerge. The network improved gradually: 20 years later, more than 150 people from all over the USA, but also from Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Australia, Austria, England, Mexico, France … gathered to take part in this « Natural Building Colloquium». It was a great anniversary to celebrate the progress of the movement, but also to take time to think about the challenges still ahead.
It was a wonderful meeting, far away from such huge events as « COP21 Solutions » where the multinational companies circulate leaflets without discrimination, for the purpose of signing significant contracts or « greening » their image in a way, without changing anything to the roots of the crisis caused by their business. For the participants to this colloquium, natural building is a starting point for others deeper changes: « The main thing is not so much to learn to put things together to build ecologically… » says Ianto Evans « what is happening here is going much further: we want to change society in rethinking our relation to nature, to the others, focusing on the main needs. Millions of people in this country are not happy with their way of life which goes against their ethics and creates global problems. What they do not know, however, is how to go about it to change it all. So our job is to offer solutions and one of those is to have a smaller and more comfortable house. Comfortable means that you do not have to take on a job which goes against what you believe in to earn enough money to pay for your house…»
During this week, almost 50 sessions were held, given by and for the participants, where they shared their experiences: « earthbag building around the world », « collecting rain water », « the history of straw bale building »… To offer the pleasure of « doing, » other participants offered demonstration workshops: a straw bale dome, a cabin in the trees, a mud-brick oven, an earthbag wall, more specifically, were all built in a very joyful atmosphere. In the evening, presentations on the more global stakes refer to the legal battles around construction codes, or analyse the natural building potential to try and keep climate change in check…
Although the schedule was already quite full, some participants decide to set up discussion circles amongst themselves on the various strategies to spread natural building to the public at large. The purpose was that it is no longer seen as « alternative » but that in the minds of the public it starts replacing those traditional buildings which are harmful to health and the environment. When the participants left, they had already decided to meet again for yet another colloquium in 2016 (planned for October in Quail Springs, New Mexico). Let us bet that by then the movement will have increased!
As far as we are concerned, after a year and a half of shooting various projects in different countries, this colloquium just confirmed our intuition: there is a world movement which wants to know all its members to become stronger. Like all the others, we also leave with new energy to carry on with our investigation!
Thanks to Owen Geiger and David Eisenberg for puting us in touch with this great network !
Thanks to all the people who accomodated us after this colloquium : Matts Myhrman – Nicholas et Jenny Holmes – Martin Hammer et Miriam Shipp – Bruce et Sarah King – David Arkin et Annie Tilt – Darrel Deboer – Liz Johndrow…
Thanks also to Ianto Evans, Catherine Wanek and all the participants for their kindness.
A final Thanks to, David Eisenberg and Rachel Prezton Prinz for the pictures.
Click on the arrows to see the slider pictures