Let’s begin with soul – and what we think it might be.
Definitions abound …
Soul is the part of us that seeks freedom, expression, imagination, creativity and spirituality.
Soul is our moral or emotional nature, our sense of identity.
Soul is that which gives life to our bodies.
Soul is mind, psyche, breath, emotion, love, compassion, dream, immortal essence, even consciousness itself.
Such definitions confound us by their lack of clarity, challenge the very mind that might be soul, sending us trawling for certainty in a sea of unknowing, setting our senses on edge as they deliver a blur of data to the brain where it is probed, dissected, categorised and otherwise rendered sensible… more
The human ability to create shelter emerges from our survival instincts. The activities associated with this sheltermaking puts people in touch with nature and expose them in an active way to its processes, cycles, likes, dislikes, preferences and possibilities, nurturing our sense of aliveness. The practice of sheltermaking, or as it is commonly called, vernacular architecture, largely died out with the advent of industrialisation. The industrial-era home was a utilitarian box within which people could partake of food, rest and procreation. Such ‘homes’ provided none of the natural connectivity which the traditional shelter offered… more
When building a house in Ireland some years ago I encouraged the client to ‘dedicate’ the timber frame before it was closed in. She proceeded to inscribe on it the words ‘Nil aon tintean mar do thintean fein’. This translates as ‘there’s no fireside like one’s own fireside’ which neatly captures the feeling of the hearth as a vital centre around which our lives revolve. When we look a little deeper into this we discover that the words ‘hearth’ and ‘heart’ spring from the same ancient roots which is probably why we can so easily accept the hearth as the vital centre of life and home, evoking feelings of warmth, companionship, nourishment and security… more
Embracing a sustainable way of life involves changing how we provide ourselves with food and shelter. Permaculture has been phenomenally successful at providing and disseminating a practical, workable and accessible system of natural food production. By comparison the natural building movement has been much less successful at providing practical information about the creation or modification of buildings to support a sustainable way of life.
Where people traditionally provided for their own needs in regards to food and shelter, the job culture introduced by the industrial revolution induced people to sell the time previously devoted to such tasks. While domestic-scale food production did not entirely cease as a result of this new way of life, the practice of building one’s own home did… more
At this time of uncertainty, one certainty that can be trusted is that, in the unknown future, people will continue to need water, food and shelter. As is the case today, the fulfilment of such basic needs will fuel future economic activity, driven as this is by people’s desire to maintain their aliveness. A widespread awareness exists as to the need to consume healthy food and water and to resist questionable products and practices that are likely to negatively affect human and planetary health. The harmonies established with the cycles and processes of the natural world as a consequence of this keys people into the survival paradigm of our civilisation – agriculture. This relies on nature to provide what we need to sustain our aliveness. This natural economy utilises solar energy to fuel reproduction, growth and the recycling of waste products preserving its resources intact in the process… more
Or, read the Living Architecture – The Lost Art of Sheltermaking version as published in Network Holistic magazine
Embracing a sustainable way of life involves changing how we provide ourselves with food and shelter. In traditional societies people provided for their own needs in this regard. The industrial revolution changed this pattern. People abandoned this so-called ‘subsistence’ way of life in favor of a job culture and an urban existence. While domestic-scale food production did not entirely cease as a result of this new way of life, the practice of building one’s own home did.
Because vernacular architecture traditions were oral and perpetuated by practical example when the practice of building one’s own home ceased vital sheltermaking knowledged was lost and vernacular architecture was superceded by profit driven ‘development’ controlled by self-interested third parties… more
It is important to bear in mind, when thinking about designing your own home, that the house design field has few expert practitioners and that no dedicated ‘school of house design’ exists. This means that there is no standard house design methodology, no professional ‘secrets’ to be revealed. House designers might imply that such secrets exist but this is simply untrue.
This lack of house design methodology led me to initiate the ‘Be Your Own Architect’ Courses in 1989 and, as a result of the success of these, to write the Handbook of House Design & Construction. This set out a clear and practical house design methodology that allows a person to create their own ‘architecture’. The move towards Sustainable Development that gathered momentum in the 1990’s encouraged the evolution of ‘Be Your Own Architect’ Course & The Handbook into the present CD-ROM Course In Sustainable House Design & Construction… more
By changing the way in which we look at the subject of human shelter we gain the potential to change our lives. It is this key factor – the incorporation within a home of the natural ability to change and adapt – that offers the power to change not only ourselves but, in consequence, the world. It is the need for such change that characterises all proposed solutions to the problems of global warming, pollution, toxic waste, food contamination, and so on. The reason that house design wields such power is simple. Settled life is the basis of civilisation as we know it. Houses are the cornerstone of settled life, and, in consequence, underpin all the civilised values we revere … more
Ancient buildings such as the Great Pyramids, the Parthenon, Newgrange and, in more recent times, the Gothic cathedrals, harbour secrets which were incorporated into their designs by their architects. This allowed for the abstract manifestation of these secrets within the buildings themselves. These can be described as the ‘feelings’ evoked by the architecture. The ancient secrets of design are founded on this ability of architecture to unify physical and emotional experience. This is assisted by the fact that buildings have an inside and an outside which is a reflection of the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ worlds we exist in … more
UN Local Agenda 21 declares that we must change our lifestyles in order to protect the choice mechanism of future generations. Such a sustainable life is to be based on a value system which is, in itself, life sustaining.
Initiating the changes required to live a sustainable life does not come easy. These changes will most likely be forced on people by nature itself. Dealing effectively with either voluntary or imposed change will largely hinge on the ability of the home to be adapted to evolving circumstances. In effect, changing how we live requires that we adapt the buildings we live in to suit this sustainable life, or, design new buildings fashioned to the task. This is the quest of sustainable house design – to facilitate the living of sustainable lives. As such, it is a demanding goal for designers … more
In the developed world economic growth is regarded as a true measure of hope and success. Economic growth is fuelled by the spending of money that is earned or borrowed. The most common form of borrowing is‘mortgaging’ which is the practice of borrowing money to buy a home.
Modern economic systems are underpinned by the value ascribed to mortgaged property. So critical is this to the perceived health of economies that governments and their executive agencies strenuously encourage people to become home owners. They also do their utmost to maintain a steady rise in property values. Property has, in fact, become the new Fort Knox where bricks ‘n mortar are watched over, not by armed guards, but by people protecting [the value of] their homes … more
The clock is probably as much to blame for the current state of world affairs as the burning of fossil fuel, though less easy to pin down. It wreaks its havoc nonetheless, spreading destruction and fear, glaring down upon us, constantly demanding that we speed up.
The rhythm of the clock is the rhythm of the machine – explosive and intense, a consequence of igniting the pent-up energy contained within fossil fuels. Formed over millions of years but released instantly, this explosive force lays down a beat to which everyone must march. It is the role of the clock to broadcast this rhythm which it does with robotic efficiency, policing our days and our nights.
Natural rhythm has a different tempo – days, months, seasons and years. The sense of timelessness which this engenders accords with our body rhythms and allows us to harmonise with the pace of the natural world … more
The world has a certain Humpty Dumpty quality to it at the moment. As all the king’s horses and all the king’s men strive to put the poor fellow together again we stand and watch as if there might be some possibility of success.
As children we resigned ourselves to the fact that this cosmic egg inspired figure was shattered for good and all time. However, in the grown up world we seek to rewrite history by believing that the king’s resources are sufficient to mend the fallen icon’s fatal fractures.
So the printing presses run forging money with which to paper over the cracks that have shattered our world. Such illusions are not worth the paper they are printed on … more
Embracing a sustainable way of life involves changing how we provide ourselves with food and shelter.
Permaculture has been phenomenally successful at providing a practical, workable and accessible system of natural food production. By comparison the natural building movement has been much less successful at disseminating practical information about the creation of buildings to support a sustainable way of life.
In traditional societies people provided for their own needs in regards to food and shelter. The industrial revolution changed this pattern. People abandoned this so-called ‘subsistence’ way of life in favour of a job culture and an urban existence. Instead of spending time building one’s own home and producing one’s own food, people converted their time into money by working and used this money to provide for their needs on the open market. The commodification of food and shelter that resulted from this has now led to a situation where the quality of much of what is eaten is suspect and the homes provided by the market are overly expensive and of dubious quality… more