...in the bottom drawer
I knew I'd lose it so I put it in a safe place, and now I can't remember where it is.

currently stashed in: Cheshire Street, London
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September 03, 2004 || 7:07 am

There is an ongoing programme here of lectures by invited practitioners from a range of disciplines. Yesterday we had our first Wednesday night meal and invited lecture - the weekly opportunity for the whole Rural Studio to get together and catch up. This week we had Chris Krager from KRDB talking about their efforts to build good design for the masses, or what they call affordable architecture for the urban/suburban middle classes who are not served by either the high-end luxury architecture or the social housing programmes. The main interest was that they effectively take a middle-class approach to the Rural Studio's self-build ethos, acting not only as architects but as the contractors, bringing a meaning to 'design and build' that is far from its British connotations.

This evening we had two talks - firstly from two extremely enthusiastic brothers who have been looking into cob construction (similar to adobe) for houses principally in California and Oregon, and who are planning to build themselves a house in Alabama. While they were engaging, the hippy aesthetic of the projects they showed - all curvy walls and 'organic' earth-mother-ish forms - was offputting and I couldn't help thinking of the elegance of the mud and straw buildings of Iran that I saw when I was there in comparison. Also, I feel that there must be a reason that adobe buildings are not indigenously found in climates that are humid as well as hot. However, the rammed earth that the RS has previously used appears to have been successful so maybe there is a use for this technology if designed well.

The second talk this evening was from a Methodist preacher called Darcy Walker who has been building super-cheap houses for the poor in north Alabama for the last 20 years. They have a fixed plan, rigidly oriented to make use of passive solar gain, and are built using volunteer labour and funds raised through churches. They cost $36,000 to build and are then mortaged with no interest to extremely low income families with repayments of between $35-100 a month. A pretty impressive programme, if not for its architecture, which is conventional and depressing for its lack of any consideration other than economy.

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