The Hand-Sculpted House
A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage
by Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith, and Linda Smiley
Are you ready for the Cob Cottage? This is a building method so old and so simple that it has been all but forgotten in the rush to synthetics. A cob cottage, however, might be the ultimate expression of ecological design, a structure so attuned to its surroundings that its creators refer to it as "an ecstatic house."
Written with three distinct voices, The Hand-Sculpted House is a life changing text. It not only provides the reader with a practical knowledge base for building their own cob cottage, but underscores a mentality that is congruent with self-empowerment and global change. Think of it as a cob-oriented guide to changing the world. Personal expressions of comfort and shelter, rather than generic McMansions, will manifest themselves through the skills outlined in this book. Cob becomes more than just a building material, but a philosophy that can foster a lifestyle of perpetual ecology.
Abstractly, the book speaks of desires and release from social constructs. Practically, it speaks of barefoot mud dancing, microclimates, and the tools (both internal and external) that one needs to complete a home made of cob. Outright against using machines and power tools, the book's natural demeanor and (literally) well-grounded information set the stage for a housing medium that is as nearly abundant as the earth itself. After reading such a book, you will know that quality shelters are not just built by professionals, but that anyone can be capable of creating a living, functional and earth-friendly architecture--a home that is more personal than any contractor-built house.
The authors build a house the way others create a natural garden. They use the oldest, most available materials imaginable -- earth, clay, sand, straw, and water -- and blend them to redefine the future (and past) of building. Cob (the word comes from an Old English root, meaning "lump") is a mixture of non-toxic, recyclable, and often free materials. Building with cob requires no forms, no cement, and no machinery of any kind. Builders actually sculpt their structures by hand.
Building with earth is nothing new to America; the oldest structures on the continent were built with adobe bricks. Adobe, however, has been geographically limited to the Southwest. The limits of cob are defined only by the builder's imagination. Cob offers answers regarding our role in Nature, family and society, about why we feel the ways that we do, about what's missing in our lives.
Cob has been a traditional building process for millennia in Europe, even in rainy and windy climates like the British Isles, where many cob buildings still serve as family homes after hundreds of years. The technique is newly arrived to the Americas, and, as with so many social trends, the early adopters are in the Pacific Northwest. Cob houses (or cottages, since they are always efficiently small by American construction standards) are not only compatible with their surroundings, they ARE their surroundings, literally rising up from the earth. They are full of light, energy-efficient, and cozy, with curved walls and built-in, whimsical touches.
The Hand-Sculpted House is theoretical and philosophical, but intensely practical as well. You will get all the how-to information to undertake a cob building project. As the modern world rediscovers the importance of living in sustainable harmony with the environment, this book is a bible of radical simplicity.