For those of you out there that like to use the digital world to help visualize your doodles and dreams, I thought I would mention Google’s freeware program “Sketch Up.” I have a Mac computer and find it hard sometimes to find good software for simple building design sketches, etc. I don’t need professional CAD abilities, just enough to get the ideas across to people. Lately I have started dinking around with Sketch Up and find it pretty nice and pretty easy for just that sort of thing. It is really flexible as well for all sorts of uses. And you can’t beat free. May your best doodles come to realization.
The Tulou are clan houses built in the Fujian province of South East China. It is believed that these structures were built as early as the 13th century, and many of them survive today at varying ages. Some are several hundred years old. I first heard of these structures from Earth Architecture’s website and they grabbed hold of my imagination for a few different reasons.
First they are built from earthen materials, the outer walls being essentially rammed earth with wooden structures sometimes internally. I am fascinated with earthen building materials because you just can’t get more sustainable. Literally the whole world’s population could build their homes with dirt and the earth would be no worse for wear.
Secondly, they have stood the test of time. Not only in the sense that the buildings have lasted for hundreds of years, but also people in China have continued to actively live in them and construct them up until the last 100 years. Practically, they must have worked. Not only did they succeed in providing defense from other warring clans, but there must have been more.
Lastly, the tulou were built to house entire clans. Some of the ones still in use today house up to 600 people. Yet in Western culture it is rare to even find a handful of extended family members under the same roof. I myself live in an urban bungalow with my wife and child, but we have often sought ways to shake this formula up. International students have lived under our roof, friends who needed a place to go, and students who I have worked with and shared life with. But these arrangements have been temporary. Should we be so ardent about our values for individualism and personal space? Are these things the earned privilege of a wealthy and affluent culture? Or are they blights on what would otherwise be a more meaningful and sustainable life?
What other residential models like the tulou are out there but withering in the brutal heat of modernity? Can we take some lessons from the dying clan lifestyle of China? Or at least build homes that we expect our children’s children to be able to come home to some day, if only for a visit.
This entry might reveal a little too much about myself, but I just have to give a shout out to this little community in Missouri. Dancing Rabbit has been around for 10 years now and some might refer to them as a “Transition Community,” but they really are something different.
A Transition Community is, according to Transition Towns Wiki, “a small collection of motivated individuals within a community come together with a shared concern: how can our community respond to the challenges, and opportunities, of Peak Oil and Climate Change?”
I think this idea of transition towns/communities is awesome, and I hope to see it continue to catch on around the U.S. and the world. But from what I can tell about Dancing Rabbit (through their website) they are something pretty different. If a transition town is a group of people within a community, then what do you call a group of people that decide to start their own town? That is what Dancing Rabbit is trying to do. Their town is a small one right now at 30 people, but they claim to desire to reach 500 to 1000. Their covenants include things like not driving a personal vehicle (they share two for the whole community) and not using fossil fuels to heat their homes, etc.
I have been looking for community experiments like this one and am surprised it took me this long to find Dancing Rabbit. I was so excited to find them I thought there might be others like me out there. May the rabbit keep dancing.