Made in EARTH

ಮೇಡ್ ಇನ್ ಅರ್ಥ್ | sustainable architecture & building practices

Tag "France"

After this first week of design and selection of a project, the entire team started working together. 3 weeks is a really short period of time to build and do the finishing of a 20square mt building! Things had to go fast and steady.

The entire structure of the building was in wood, most of which was recycled from a big exhibition that took place in the area. We setup a small workshop to prefabricate all the pieces and assemble them into big boxes in order to make the construction as quick as possible.

While some of us were still working on the plans, the rest of the team started laying the foundations. Because of restrictions due to firemen access, we had to move the entire structure a few metres inside the courtyard, not the same anymore but still visible from the road, still powerful!

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[The whole “Rabbit” lies on these 2 beams. They’d rather be straight and horizontal… Double check.]
Avignon, though it is in the south of France, often sees temperatures below zero during the winter. A good insulation is necessary and will also improve the comfort during the hot summers. Which insulating material is local, natural, pest free, resistant, inexpensive and available in abundance??? Rice Husk!! That is what we used to insulate the floor and the roof of the building

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Time to fill the wallswith straw and earth
The wooden structure of the walls needed to be filled with a material which is aesthetically appealing, insulating but with a good inertia and of course made of a natural and local material. That is when Seb got in and taught us how to prepare the straw and earth mix.

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[Step 1 : spread the straw bale in a big pile]

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[Step 2 : mix the earth with water and spray it on top of the pile ]
Here is a tip
: fix a trowel at the end of your watering can, you will get a wonderful mud fountain!

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[Step 3 : after closing the wall compartments with a wooden board, fill the mix in and start ramming…  ]

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[Step 4 :  ramming…  ]

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[Step 5 :  ramming…  ]


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[The future amphitheater  ]

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We had to leave before the roof was laid, 1 week before the opening… not much sleep and lots of learning! We had grown into a wonderful construction team together.

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[Most the doors and windows where recycled from local deconstruction site ]

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[Last details…]

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[The opening!! First concert in the rabbit … 32 people! ]

27-ob_84eb61_dsc02211[The building is now occupied all week long by an architect who is working on the over-whole rehabilitation of this industrial complex.]

22-03-DSCF0364The rabbit stands tall and proud. It is amazing what 10 people can do if they put all their energy in it!
You can follow the adventure of the “Tri Postal” on their blog : http://tripostal.org/

What is this project all about? Read here
Visit Touraterre website herePhoto credits : Lorraine Bonduelle

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“There was an incredible will from the group of architects, and the entire process was very democratic.”
Late nights of design and discussion, lots of cutting, sticking, crunching, debating and starting over again. The entire design process lasted a week begining with a competition between the architects to present a proposal for the cabin. 

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The design proposals were then presented to a jury comprising of representatives from the city municipality, artists and sculptors, architects who have worked in the city, and the people living in the shelter homes. Based on the Jury’s choices, the group decided together on a project.

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The decision process within our group, enriched by the inputs given by the jury was a good example of true collaborative decision taking. Everybody tried to put his / her ego aside to decide which project would serve best the place, the people and the context, build-able in 2 weeks and challenging!

“It is all of us who will live here and construct, we will choose a final project that motivates us to build.”

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Jeremie and Felicia’s project was chosen. “I have never seen an earth building like that one before! It will attract attention of the public towards this abandoned site.”

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The selected project description:
A Rabbit at the TRI postal of Avignon
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The project is a call for attention towards the street; the volume unfolds beyond the old industrial courtyard, by raising its head beyond the fence. Wooden structure filled with earth and straw, the unique form attracts curiosity, it is a transition between the city and the different actors of this big and vivid rehabilitation project. Compact, to minimize its contact with the ground and its consumption of energy, it’s two levels are interconnected through an amphitheater creating a generously spacious interior that allows for multiple uses: a smaller and lighter office area of a more private character at the upper level, and a gathering area for meetings at the lower level, unfolding itself with large openings towards the courtyard of the TRI Postal.
“The rabbit will not only have a life in cardboard and drawings but will actually have a wooden skeleton with an earth and straw filling!

All the buzz at the TRI Postal immediately caught the attention of the local newspapers!

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What happened next? Coming soon.
What is this project all about? Read here.
Visit Touraterre website here
Photo credits : Lorraine Bonduelle

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“It is a different energy to have a challenge and to sweat towards it all together.”

In the month of September 2014, we worked on an exciting project in the South of France, together with 10 architects from across Europe and the association Touraterre.

(Friends from Touraterre started their association with a journey: a travel from Austria to Auroville, India. 12, 000 Km by train and bus, through Turkey, Iran, India, China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Poland.  Their goal was to visit, draw, discover and document construction projects along the road. They also visited institutions where ecological building techniques are being discussed, used and taught. Through Touraterre, they now promote the use of raw earth construction for contemporary architecture. Learn more about their adventures on their website here)

Together with a local organization “H.A.S” that supports homeless people in the main cities of France, their current project is to rehabilitate the TRI, Mail Sorting Centre of the French Postal Services in the city of Avignon. It is a huge industrial building from the 1900s located in the centre of the city, adjacent to the main train station. It has been abandoned for the last 15 years. The rehabilitation project is to convert it into an active social and cultural centre for Avignon, along with renowned French architect, Patrick Bouchain.

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[Corridors of the Sorting Centre]

To kick-start the transformation process, Touraterre and H.A.S this year, invited architects to design and build a ‘cabane de chantier‘, a custom designed temporary cabin on site to enable the organization of meetings, gatherings, etc. Architects and students from across Europe joined the team to live together, cook together, eat together, design together and build together, all within a period of one month! At the end of the month, the city of Avignon was invited for a grand inauguration of the new structure and presentation of the overall vision for the site.

The cabin was to be designed to occupy 20 square metres within the compound walls of the sorting centre. Building techniques with raw earth, straw and recycled wood were to be used.

Here are some sketches of the site. An old caravan had found its final resting place inside the compound. Shipping containers, remodeled as temporary shelters were put up inside to house the homeless people; a factor important during both design and construction.
“We are in their home”

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“What we are interested in is not only what earth architecture can be, but what our process is and what it brings to the people.” Here are some images of Life at the TRI during the first week.

04-IMG_4971[Working on the design in the main building of the sorting centre]

06-IMG_4986[Lunches and dinners together in the courtyard]

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[Open kitchens]

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[Straw from a farm nearby, ready to be used for construction]

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What was the design process like? Know more here.

Visit Touraterre website here
Photo credits : Lorraine Bonduelle


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Plaster in Chenelet01

In the summer of 2014, the community homes at Chênelet in the North of France, received a make over. Our 10 day mission was to coordinate and train a team of 6 employees from Chênelet to restore 80 sq metres of plastered earth walls.

Hidden in the countryside of Nord-pas-de-Calais, Chênelet is an association that supports unemployed people and persons from socially difficult backgrounds to train in areas of their interest. Their training period usually lasts from 6 months to 2 years. Thanks to the work and access to basic needs, they are able to regain their dignity and their place in society. After their training period, they find employment in the regular sector and sometimes even start practices of their own.

Through this objective of employment and training, Chênelet has developed activities that create an integrated value chain in the region : organic farming, forestry, processing of the local raw materials (timber, organic fruits, vegetables) and construction of ecological social housing with the use of local building materials like timber, earth and residues from the mining industry.

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The 6 trainees we worked with this summer were interested in moving forward with their career in the building sector. They received a week-long training in earth plastering techniques at the site of the Chênelet homes.

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The walls of these houses are insulated with a mixture of lime and wooden chips which is protected with 2 layers of plaster. The first thick layer is made of linen/flax plant straw, lime, earth and sand that creates a support to receive the next layer.

The second layer is the “finishing”, that protects the wall from rain and shocks. After 15 years, it is this layer that required a “face lifting”.

The tough weather conditions in this region of the North made it necessary for us to use a considerable amount of lime in the plaster.  We used a mix of NHL 3.5 lime, earth and fine river sand, to obtain a smooth finishing layer of 5mm.

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[In July the sun was surprisingly hot in “Pas-de-Calais”, we had to work under a shade net to make sure that neither us nor the plaster dry too fast!]

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We had to redo the first layer in some patches with linen/flax plant straw mix. To ensure durability, we decided to protect all the houses with stone tiles which we placed at the bottom before putting the finishing layer.

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Plaster in Chenelet08[A nearly finished wall surface of the south facade, the beautiful waves show the movement of the hands while preparing the layer]

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Those 10 days were intense!
All the 6 participants worked with earth for the first time, they had only worked with conventional building materials before like cement and sand. We were amazed to see how quickly they caught the technique; ” It is not the same! It is much more soft!”, ” It feels more natural” , “It is a forgiving material”. Everyone felt that working with earth was much easier, pleasant and non-toxic as compared to cement plastering.
A great team spirit grew over the weeks and they were all very enthusiastic about what they had learnt, eager to share and spread this interest in the companies that they will join later!

A plaster that breathes, regulates temperature and humidity inside the building, absorbs both noise and odors and that ages beautifully with time. Add to that the infinite possibilities in aesthetics; Coloured or Natural, smooth or grainy, regular or patterned, contemporary or rustic; earth plaster is  irresistible! The method is simple and fun, you can even do it yourself!

We will leave you with a photograph of a beautiful Chênelet home in the sun.

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Handmade with care, handmade in earth.

 

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