Posted by Swellengram

Clay building course

  • Posted 8 months ago
  • Activities and Clubs|Local Stories

Rietkuil, 26 April to 2 May 2023

Tanglewood Permaculture

Natural building has had a following within the Gaia and associated
movements for decades, and has a centuries-long history as a vernacular
building method. It is growing in popularity again amongst a new generation
convinced the current structure of society has limited time left and that they
should know how to build their own homes.

This course is designed both for those people and for architectural
professionals who, like the facilitators, Kathy Dumbrell and Carrie Pretorius,
believe that the techniques and technologies of natural building are valuable
knowledge sets for designers to acquire and that applying architectural design
thinking to buildings to be constructed using natural methods is a valuable
contribution that architecture practitioners can make to contemporary

Whether a designer or a layperson, engaging with how vernacular buildings have
been constructed gives deeper understanding to the history of architecture and
the evolution of human settlements and shelters over time. In addition, the
course works from the departure point that being able to apply contemporary techniques
to natural building methods and to design mechanical detail solutions (for
weatherproofing, forexample) are very useful skills for the designer of any
structure to acquire and to be able cross apply in his/her architectural or
owner-building practice. Thus, architectural professionals will be challenged
to start with a mechanical detail solution where possible, and to share their
knowledge and test their ideas within the group setting, on the “course
building” (our clay guinea pig?!?).

For laypeople, this course offers an opportunity to engage with building and
to understand the practicalities and limitations of the translation of desires
and ideas into built form, as well as the other skills applicable to
architectural professionals. The desire is to build an understanding of both
building pragmatics and the invisible skillset of architectural professionals
as space-makers.

Tanglewood, a demonstration garden being developed in Suurbraak, 
Rietkuil. along permaculture principles, is offering the venue, complete with
clay required for building (as well as all other building materials) and a
campsite for participants (with communal kitchen, eating and firepit
facilities, as well as ablution facilities).

The workshop/ course is envisaged as an immersive, 7-day experience. But
those who would like to leave us after dinner and bed down in a local B&B
or self-catering with wi-fi to catch some work hours before joining us in time
for the pre-breakfast session that starts each day, can message us directly for
some recommendations. We are 11km of gravel road from Suurbraak and the same,
on tar, from Buffeljagsrivier. This would be for participants’ own account.

Over 7 days, participants will be introduced to the concepts and practicalities
of building with clay – or “natural building”. The day will be structured with
a theory session and related practical session each morning. The participants
will be working on the on-site, very simple, one-room-plus-en-suite structure shown
on the poster each afternoon. Participants will be required to participate in
the building sessions, which will give them daily application of the course
material in a practical setting.

Participants will be experiencing each step of the building process, in logical
sequence: foundations, base walls, walls, openings, floors and rendering. The
roof will not form part of this course. SANS10400 requirements and lessons
learned in interactions with the local authority (Swellendam) will be referred
to but the course makes no claim to be a SANS-driven course.

The course focus is on understanding natural building as a modern expression
of vernacular building. Carrie Pretorius, with her years of hands-on
experience, will be the primary facilitator, with inputs from Kathy Dumbrell
(heritage practitioner, architectural historian and long-time VASSA member)
intended to spark participants’ interest and illustrate the links between
techniques and locations, history and building technology.

We look forward to welcoming you at this first-time offering, where the
learning, food and social setting is carefully curated to create a week-long
learning experience that is a “whole-soul” experience. Just bring your tent and
bedding, notebooks and sketchbooks, walking shoes, gumboots, overalls, gloves
and sense of fun and adventure, and we’re sure you’ll leave well fed and with a
renewed sense of excitement at how much the calling and art of space-making
empowers you to offer society.

Contact us on for more details.


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