I just dropped the price of
the permaculture playing cards
for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
- infecting brains with permaculture
- convincing folks that you are not crazy
- gift giving obligations
- stocking stuffer
- gambling distraction
- an hour or two of reading
- find the needle
- find the 26 hidden names

clickity-click-click

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Traditional-Natural building systems: Development and Evolution  RSS feed

 
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Hi Jay

"Theory" to me is most often used to refer to that which looks good in ones thoughts but whose success in the real world remains unknown/unverified as yet.

> expense has nothing to do with it...

I disagree.

Housing (humble architecture) and other works of man is an outgrowth of a people's relationship w/their environment. Physical necessity prioritizes how people spend their effort; after that various physical benefits control. Man is very physical. <g> Physical comes with costs which determine _which_ physical things get made.

Temples _were_ built when labor of the masses could be required either physically (most common) or emotionally. And probably new and different building methods arose thus at times. But temples (pyramids, cathedrals, etc) are not traditional building in my view. Traditional building implies some widespread use and the more widespread the more traditional.

> Haiti... homeless growing...

They use what's at hand, clearly. What's at hand (or available cost effectively) controls what gets built. "What's at hand" can refer to basic material but it can also refer to skill sets. All the cedar in the world won't help if you have no nails and no skill to make wood joints - so maybe you go further and find clay cuz you know how to lay brick. But you do the best you can w/what you can afford "Afford" is similar to "can find". "Cost" is similar to "availability".

Many traditional materials really are not available any more to most urban dwellers. They can neither forage them nor can they afford to have them brought in because they have become scarce both in nature and because nobody grow, mines, manufactures or gathers them any more. However, things like used carpet and old tires and used concrete _may_ be available with some ingenuity. Whether they make practical sense... I think the jury is still out.

> intense relationship w/natural world...

Most urban people probably recognize a leaf if they saw one - some might not. But they _would_ know which streets have synchronized lights, which diners won't make them sick, which Dollar Stores have the good licorice they want. A Londoner in the 1600's might be 3rd or 4th generation urban and have no clue how to farm or trap but know intimately the middens dustbins where he could find fairly good leftover food. Urbanites _do_ relate to their environment - it's just a different environment. The city is their environment with as much validity as a forest for any woodsman. When people they build, they build w/what they have known and been taught. And that is as much as any monk does. To have relevance and validity to city people one must approach them understanding they have just as an important environment to them as a rain forest is to a a forest dweller. To have a chance, concepts and ideas need to fit and _connect_ to the environment du jour.

> (me) Traditional technologies... low cost.to benefit many people
> (Jay) aesthetic choices... belief systems...

I vote practical value as the most important factor in how traditional methods evolved, especially the further back one goes. As a people survive as a continuous group and their known past and present infrastructure develops you then get factors like "same ol'/same ol'" and copy cat and CYA (can't blame me - I did it like him) in how people build; this does become a strong influence but it _must_ still be economically practical and fully functional. Personal and artistic expression in architecture would only very rarely influence any of the core functional parts of most buildings; it would manifest instead in ornament. This is because of the high cost of a dwelling and the utter importance that it do it's job as expected. Nobody but the very rich could afford to experiment because you screw up a building, it costs a LOT to redo (relative to what most people could afford).

As an example I personally know of: I worked as a plumber for 25 years. The first lesson is you DON'T get creative because plumbing is pricey, essential and it's expected to perform well for at _least_ 50 years. There are a few methods and materials that can be expected to do that job and there are many "good ideas" that fail after 5 years. There was a massive shakeup in the ABS plastic pipe industry in the middle 90's when thousands of drain pipes began breaking for no reason. There was another in the late 90's (IIRC) when polypropylene pipes from the city water main to the home began breaking. SO:

1) When something is very expensive and/or critical to your life NOBODY changes it's methodology barring total necessity.

2) These plastic materials are now in common use; the problems resolved or reduced. The necessity they presented was cost - they offered the potential to reduce material costs to 1/10 of current levels.

Very few people will risk the value of their new home for the sake of personal expression. Cost drives accepted building practice and changes thereof.


Rufus
 
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Hello Rufus,

Thanks for engaging in this topic, I thought it best to split this conversation off into another OP, as I try to keep technical post technical like the Raised Earth Foundations, and sociological/philosophical and related conversations separate. I think we are both making really good points, and I know I am adjusting the language of my views because of your feedback...thank you for that.

Jay White Cloud wrote:...yet in many (most?) cases expense has nothing to do with it...


I edited the above section of my comment in the other thread that you disagreed with to perhaps reflect more clearly my perspective. I do not disagree with some of the observations about housing, and how other cultures may have in the past (or even now) approached it. In the beginning, architecture could have been very servile and/or deferential in nature, and I am sure often was, yet in few vernacular forms, in most cultures, this did not stay that way for long and became art, and an extension of human expression.

I agree that, "...physical comes with costs which determine...which...physical things get made..." Yet I am not sure that reflect differently the points I had made. Temples, shrines, hermitages, public or social architecture, had many different elements behind them, both spiritual, economic, political, and others. There modality of construction often represented the apex of a cultural time period. Your view that these, "...are not traditional buildings," is counter to how most scholars I have studied perceive it, which is fine. I agree that the "folk styles" (my specialty) are more germane to permaculture than would be a shrine, or temple.

Traditional building implies some widespread use and the more widespread the more traditional.


Hmmm...in some regards, that makes sense, yet I have found that "traditional," in the folk styles has not only a relationship with the economics of a region, but also the culture and the environment....plus the cultural history. Haiti...or the Haiti that was so severely damage in the earthquake...did not use...."what's at hand,"...they used concrete and now that is why folks like myself and other academics are studying the architectural culture, why-how they abandoned traditional methods, and related issues to the failed infrastructure.

I agree that, "What's at hand" does refer to not only basic material, but skill sets as well, yet this does not negate my observation I don't believe. As to your next example (one of many I am sure but I really like this one as it illustrates well some of my observations,) "All the cedar in the world won't help if you have no nails," is not what is reflected in the cultures that I known intimately like the Pacific Northwest Natives as one example. Humans seem to, even in isolation from others, develop the same modalities of achieving a goal. If they don't have iron, or choose not to use metal (like the Japanese) they develop intricate lashing and/or joinery methods...and did. This can be done today as well...perhaps even more so with the free exchange of information that exists more so now, than in any other time in history...one big plus for technology today.

I like your drive to "recycle" and use that as a modern "folk style" of building in an urban landscape with the building materials you can salvage. Yet I can not agree that, "many traditional materials really are not available any more to most urban dwellers." Perhaps not in the same format, or even amount, yet if someone like you and other start building in the folk styles, and insisting on wanting "natural building materials" the economic laws of "supply and demand," will have some impact to our benefit that way. I also know of several small owner-operated sawmills and "garage blacksmiths" in the Chicago, and San Francisco area, so again I present the view that it is an internal locus, not external, that impedes most urban people from building naturally, and following a permaculture lifestyle.

Rufus Laggern wrote:> (me) Traditional technologies... low cost.to benefit many people
> (Jay) aesthetic choices... belief systems...


If I gave the impression that my primary motivation is only aesthetic, I am sorry. It is very important to me...yes...as it is to many creative people, my ancestors, and "folk cultures" in general, yet it is not the only catalyst. Economics are part of that as well, yet I don't believe we see that differently in most regard, just perhaps our perception of what can be achieve, and how, may be a little different at the moment.

Rufus Laggern wrote:I vote practical value as the most important factor in how traditional methods evolved, especially the further back one goes.


Agreed, if you go back to primitive humans that had just started developing basic fire and lithic technology this is probably a very accurate observation. Nevertheless, it took very little time for the concept of "art" and other internal locus to develop in humans and they began adorning everything (including themselves) with augmentations of all variety and manner...and this included their architecture. "Practical value" is a foundation...I agree...of that there is little counter evidence, yet it was not, nor is it today the primary reason folks build the way they do from what I (and others) observe...it is habit, culture, material, skill set and then economics (practicality.)

Rufus Laggern wrote:Personal and artistic expression in architecture would only very rarely influence any of the core functional parts of most buildings it would manifest instead in ornament.


I understand and respect your views of "practicality"...especially after such a long career as a professional in the building trades, so will leave you to your views on that. I will only share that "personal and artistic expression in architecture," seems to be more important than you may view it. It has not been the conclusion or observation I have made of the many traditional builders and folks architecture I have observed, nor of the research I read of others. Practicality is there...no doubt...yet there are many other factors that are at play as well.

Regards,

j

Please feel free to edit the title of this post to something else if you would like to...
 
Rufus Laggren
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Jay

Good idea to move the discussion. I was aware of the drift...

Look fwd to replying later, no time now.


Rufus
 
Rufus Laggren
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Jay

> Temples, shrines... modality of construction often represented the apex of a cultural time period.

I guess if you consider the apex to be inextricably linked to elites - which it may well be in many ways. But it's similar to studying the history of political squabbles of European nobles in the middle ages and thinking you're getting an understanding of the life of that time. Learning of the culture and life of "common" people is quite difficult because the small number of elites dominated all media until the last 50-100 years; "common" = no record left. Even in architecture, a somewhat durable recording media, lasting construction often never extended below the upper classes so little record remains. The below book goes into this in detail trying ferret out some of the complexities of "common" thought and culture (fr. wikipedia)

The Cheese and the Worms (Italian: Il formaggio e I vermi)
is a scholarly work by the Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg.
The book is a notable example of cultural history, the history
of mentalities and microhistory.

> Haiti...

I thought you were referring originally to how they immediately embarked on rebuilding using what came to hand. Confession time - I haven't followed Haiti progress at all. I have been acquainted for the past 10 years or so w/a Haitian woman who raised her daughters here in the states now is caring for her parents; she is a fierce and impressive person whose religion plays an important part in her life. Heads up for anybody encountering her people! <g>

One of the hits from your search links highlighted Haitian "gingerbread" houses. They looked quite whimsical and imaginative and interesting - but they also looked totally upper crust, plantation houses. Which is fine. Rich guys can have traditions, too... I guess. <G> But when I study contemporary (more or less) "vernacular" architecture, references always show buildings found primarily in lower or at most middle class type areas. This is my own interpretation based on what the buildings look like and where I have (and have not) seen those types of building in my travels and work. Although there is no explicit mention of economic grouping in the publications I've looked through, the size of the buildings, the types of property and/or out buildings (and lack thereof) seen around the examples pictured can for me lead to only one conclusion: The "vernacular" architecture I've seen is not well represented in upper class monied construction but rather characterizes in practice real estate accessible to the middle and lower class. (But not the poor.) That's NOT to say elements of vernacular architecture don't appear in large expensive buildings on which great thought and effort has been spent - of course they do. And possibly an expensive (for it's time) building long ago is actually a source of these vernacular elements, the result of somebody willing to foot the bill for artistic and structural innovation. But to get to be "vernacular" required those building types to be able to be rendered functional and practical and cheap enough and then to become widespread.

> Haiti... concrete... why abandoned trad. methods...

Langenbach points to one influence in this paper under the section "Human Response" (one of the hits from your links):

http://www.conservationtech.com/IstanCon/keynote.htm

The above story sounds totally normal to me. Stressed people like to grab at "solutions", make like they are "doing something" and are in control. Rarely do they have the actual knowledge to understand the merits of the options or even to understand the issues. (A generalization meant to apply over a large number of people; details vary of course.) Rarely do they have the chance to select trustworthy authorities and, when they _can_ hear different sides of a story from different sources, rarely do they select the trustworthy ones. This is actually quite understandable because the problems involved are usually complex and people avoid complex explanations and alternatives which are hard to think about and usually come w/out cast-in-concrete "right" answers and guaranteed results. People turn instead to "clear" and simple answers with certified promises they can "understand"; entities which provide this type of answer rarely give a fig about accuracy, quality or anything like that. IOW, all the normal human habits apply to building.

> cedar... nails

Well, I had in mind not that people couldn't adapt but that their first choice would be to find something w/in reach that fit their own skills and mind set - even if it's a bit further away (more costly). Only failing that would they settle down and innovate with what they did have.

> traditional materials... availability... inner locus [the issue]

Well, in theory all that is true. In practice yes also, but the costs look way higher than you seem to imply. Maybe one person in 1000, given the best will and intentions in the world and high intelligence and lots of other assets, could actually undertake a traditional build in an urban environment w/out trashing his marriage (or other important parts of his life). "Simple" conventional construction, just a small remodel, regularly breaks up couples. If you are talking about the 1 in 1000, then sure when a person is super gold they should definitely energize, apply all their gifts and go for it - use it or lose it - and there _are_ ways to get stuff done. But the cost of entry is very high and that matters a LOT to ordinary people. When traditional materials were the contemporary materials, they could be had as cheaply (at least) as any other stuff (mostly they were the _only_ stuff w/which to build houses); this made them the unquestioned "right" choice and _that_ is _really_ important to John Doe who doesn't want his jewels crushed by all and sundry for his making really weird stupid choices and decisions. CYA, whatever you think of it ideally, is a very important part human life. On a par w/plausible deniability. <g>

What I am trying to imply, nay state outright, is that there needs to be an accessible and plausible path to traditional methods from where most people exist right now if those methods are to be used widely. And popular use _is_ what you are hoping for, right? To this end the costs matter, as well as the position of authorities and the available skill sets. And most important probably, the values of the "end user"; but if it's not _truly_ affordable (in the widest sense of the word) widespread practice is not possible regardless of values. Examples of people-who-can don't really matter until there is visible a plausible path in which the teeming hordes can see genuine hope and participate.

For example: Despite being totally free, Linux is not affordable for most people. I am happy and capable of using the better mouse trap (Linux) and I freely explain to people why I do it that way; but it has been my personal and repeated experience that it doesn't work for most people and in fact causes them severe problems at times. Linux costs too much in time and effort and "otherness". At this time the security blanket of Microsoft is far too compelling.

I think it helps to look at that situation if one wishes to promote traditional building methods and philosophy. Definitely don't mean to drop all how-to talk, all review of wonderful old innovations or anything like that. Just bring up the need and find possible ways to connect those idea w/things-as-the-are. In fact reviewing the practices of old and showing/discussing how they may work better in certain situations is probably an excellent way to introduce possible alternatives into the conversation of the building industry. There just needs to be effort spent to find how to actually _apply_ them.


Rufus
 
Rufus Laggren
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> Practical value... nor is it today the primary reason folks build the way they do from what I (and others) observe..

After sitting in on many discussions of what will and won't get built or put in the structure, I might be able to think of one or two where cost was not _always_ a major factor in the decisions. A MAJOR factor. A double front door? Maybe... No the wife wants a skylight in the bath... Parquet in the entry... No, the kitchen floor needs rebuilding. You might say that's a matter of aesthetic choice but it looks to me like "yeah, it's pretty but the budget (or something) rules!".

Perhaps you were fortunate enough to work primarily with people of committed artistic bent with experience and confidence to make aesthetics one of their primary criteria. My experience has been otherwise - fad and perceived comfort. And when there was discretionary money the choices made would often make a baboon weep (IMHO of course <g>. I imagine you've heard the phrase "remuddling"? It's a widespread phenomenon controlled by a combination of cost and poor aesthetics. Very _very_ few people consider the expense of an architect justifiable for their remodel or other building projects; when the contractor explains the cost of a hip roof to fit w/existing structure vs a shed roof and the customer can't really see much difference... Well, the rest is a muddle.

I'm not saying that aesthetics play no role in what/how common architecture evolves. Over time preferred features evolve; these features were first enabled by the building technology, then implemented in an "institutional" building or by a few "early adopters" who could afford the gamble, then copied by their peers who wanted to keep up, then requested by people of more moderate means which caused the design to be refined and costs reduced to allow builders to benefit from the desires of their moderate customers. Over time the failures were dropped, the benefits enhanced. Basically just like the fashion industry except immensely more costly and impacting something absolutely critical to life - and so evolving much more slowly and hopefully more conservatively than the usual fashions change.


Rufus
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Rufus,

I have to be careful here that I don't get myself (or you) of track or dominate this thread, or spend my hours sucked into something that "sucks hours" from me anyway...studying vernacular folk architecture methods. I can see you think a lot about this (a very good thing by the way! ) and want to understand as well as, incorporate it into your own work. I will try to hit high points and if I didn't respond to something you wanted me to...just ask. I probably agreed with your thoughts 98% on many points...or...understood we just had different perceptions of something esoteric...yet are heading in the same direction with the same goals...

Haitian "gingerbread" house

These are vestigial from "European Rule" of the people and the region. It does not reflect Creole-Native-Dominican folk styles at all. They are beautiful, and I have enjoy seeing a view from an "historic restoration" and Art perspective but would not build one myself...only restore to protect the vintage fabric and history.

Randolph Langenbach

If you read everything that Randolph writes, you could end up like me... ...I actually owe him an email about about Hórreo. He is a brilliant man, mentor, and propbably one of the worlds leading authorities on the "realities of vernacular architecture vs reinforced concrete and steel."
 
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Love the Horreo link! Now that is raised foundation I would have no problem eliminating the subgrade vapor barrier on, being there is no grade contact Can you explain the Muela? Or the cap rocks on the pedestals? Seems to be a universal design feature that I cant think of a functional reason for. They certainly look cool but I would think they would complicate uplift and stability connections.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Good eye Brian......that is a common feature in most granary and other storage buildings from many different cultures around the globe. It is built in "pest control!" Any creepy crawly wee beastie from ant to rodentia can not gain access to the structure via entry from the ground. Even many of the "permanent" steps have a small chasm that must be breached to gain egress to these structures.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Jay

You're right about the time sink... It'll take me quite a while to digest a quorum of ideas from those links you spread about. <g> In fact I've got to suspend further research for a week or so while I make the yearly move back to Chicago. Look forward to further investigation after that, though.

Brian

Rat proofing a building is _very_ difficult. If the builder really understands the problems and is determined to succeed he will be spending a serious amount of resources. Here's a page covering the basics:

http://icwdm.org/handbook/rodents/RodentExclusion.asp

Also, as I understand it the first and most effective long term defense against termites (for those that really _do_ wish to maintain their buildings) is visual vigilance. The metal "termite" shields found between the foundation and the sill plate on most properly constructed buildings do not actually stop the insects - they force them to build mud trails over the "shield" which makes the trails much more visible. Provided anybody looks. The platens or caps or whatever they're called (haven't dived into J's newest candy jar yet <g> may have some similar purpose, at least in part.

Rufus
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hey Rufus, et al,

Look forward to your return, and hope your move back to "the windy" is a smooth one. Also, thanks for the link to that site. It is one of the better ones. I had a handout that I gave folks when I worked for the state of Connecticut as a State Supervisor in Wildlife and Pest Control...a site like that would have been great.

As for keeping "wee beasties" out of architecture...I agree...many (most) modern methods physical or chemical (ichy!!!) do little for a client and only make the Pest Control Industry wealthy...VERY WEALTHY!

Hórreo, on the other hand are about 99.9% effective even after 100 years of service...they are remarkable.

Regards,

j
 
master steward
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Damn I am sure I have seen an old building with a Horreo type rat defence in the UK but I just cannot think where ........................ maybe in the cheviots or North Yorkshire .
Incidently the UK has no termites : apart from two houses in Devon where the govt un leashed all sorts of chemical nasties . Not sure if they killed them all though .
David
 
Brian Knight
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Brilliant. So they are mostly for food storage not living?
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hey David L.,

You very well may have seen one...that is the wonderful, strange and mysterious thing about this "architectural appendage" it has "co-evolved" in several culture in what appears to be a completely unconnected and independent fashion...This is one of my core areas of study over the last 25 year, where timber framing started first, how it spread, changed, and co-evolved.

Our ancestors solved just about every modern "complaint" in architecture...and...they did it 2000 years or more ago. Unfortunately few study or understand this, and when the info is (as is now being brought to modern awareness) the human nature to "resist change" takes hold, insidious contemporary architectural "habits", and the burdensome mindset of many in the construction industry to look more at profit, than at good practice and design.

Hey Brian,

They did use to be mainly for storage (not all) yet most today are converted into vacation homes, guest houses, and the related. I am part of several that have supported there "return" and now Spanish Timberwrights are building brand new ones in the traditional formats for houses and other uses. They are one of my favorite timber frame forms, and remarkably tectonically stable.

Regards,

j
 
David Livingston
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I knew it would come back to me
Here you go https://www.flickr.com/photos/inglewood_mum/514611005/in/photostream/

Its not a hypercaust ( sp ? ) I remember reading that it was raised on stones to deter rats and let the cats hunt underneath .

David
 
Think of how stupid the average person is. And how half of them are stupider than that. - Carlin But who reads this tiny ad?
Rocket Canner Fryer and Forge - Draft Plans
https://permies.com/t/64465/Rocket-Canner-Fryer-Forge-Draft
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