...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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October 14, 2004 || 3:26 am

Another week, another review, this time with the legendary John Forney, a former Outreach Studio professor. He was gratifyingly a bit harder on all of us than our previous critics, though still to my ears pretty gentle. Our group is still somewhat divided between those who think that the prototype house should be made entirely of things that you can buy from Lowes (an American cross between Travis Perkins and B&Q) and those who think it should be made of straw/bamboo/small roundwood/sheeps wool insulation.

Actually, I am probably the only true member of the first group. The other option might well result in a more interesting building, but to satisfy the criteria of being an easily reproducible prototype, for me it needs to be made using absolutely standard materials and technology. Otherwise without our zeal to carry it forward, I can't truly see anyone ever bothering to reproduce it, and if you live in poverty you will still be living in a third-hand trailer home. The question is really one of sustainability; although Lowes is about as ethical as Wal-Mart, is it better to have a lot of well-designed cheap houses for those in need, or to have vastly fewer but for those few to have impeccable ethical credentials? At the end of the day, you're still going to buy hardware and fixtures from Lowes anyway, even for the straw-bale house.

However, we realised today that we need to add 8% sales tax onto all our costings, which means that our materials budget is now around $9000. Which may mean that the Lowes house is not affordable and we're going to have to use super-cheap stuff like straw.

Afterwards, we had a community dinner where all the Newbern folks cooked for the Rural Studio to say thank-you to us for clearing up all the fallen trees and limbs after Ivan. It was held under the big shed, like all RS get-togethers, and there was some really great food. Good Southern cooking - grits, fried chicken, pork and beans, eggs, potato salad, green beans with ham. We made all the Newbern residents say who they were and either what as children they wanted to be when they grew up, or which movie star they last dreamt about. Answers ranged from barrel racer to opera singer, and Mel Gibson to some completely random soap stars who no-one had heard of.

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