Arriving in London was a fascinating experience right off the bat. I immediately got myself lost. London does not have a simple grid system like Vancouver and many North American cities. After my hour long Tube ride from the airport, I exited the station and tried my best to orient myself properly, but failed. Eventually, I found my way around among the red double decker buses!
Beginning the summer school, the first few days began with three main activities: life drawing, geometry & structures, and perspective drawing. From the first day, after an introduction to the work of the Prince’s Foundation, we began life drawing. Yes, life drawing means sketching a live, nude model. The purpose of this exercise was to gather our focus on the human perspective. It’s been years since I have sketched a human, much less a nude one. By the end of the week, after using graphite and charcoal, and sketching two different models, I could see my improvement!
Geometry was fantastic as well. Somewhat of a refresher from my high school years, but a more practical approach actually ending with the opportunity to construct several life size icosahedron domes and yurts! These skills will come in handy during our final week as we propose designs in our live build project.
We also had the opportunity to venture out into the urban environment to practice our one- and two-point perspective skills. This was my favorite part of the first week since I tend to doodle in one-point perspective when I am taking notes…haha
To end the first week, we finished with a critique of our work so far. It was amazing to see the progress each of the 27 of us had made! We then travelled to Edinburgh, Scotland for two days where we walked throughout the city, both the new and old sections, and learned how the city has been an economic and religious center of Scotland for centuries.
We are currently located in the small town of Cumnock roughly 45 minutes southeast of Glasgow. This week we have been working at the Dumfries Houseestate learning and practicing four basic traditional crafts: thatching, stonewalling, timberworking, and wattle & daub. I began this week by thatching two roofs, one from wheat straw and the other from heather branches. We were able to make rope from the leftover straw and mill flour from the wheat grain! This is the perfect example of a
sustainable form of building as we are able to use all parts, nothing goes to waste, and the structure has a roof that an last hundreds of years. The following day, we constructed a dry stonewall, and today I became proficient in wattling and daubing. This is a traditional form of constructing a wall. After the framing is built, the daub is created by mixing clay, sand, water, and straw. It can be mixed in large amounts with a machine, but of course we chose to stomp it out with our feet! It was a mess, but tons of fun!
So far, I have experienced first hand the importance of traditional building methods and approaches. The attention to quality, materials, and skill was essential for sustainability in the past, and this is an incredibly important lesson to take into the future. Building structures that last is a key requirement in building communities that last.
One more day of traditional craft left, followed by a trip to Glasgow this weekend, and a full week designing our live build project: a community summer house on the Dumfries Estate.