During autumn/winter of 2012, members of the recently launched non-profit, thePOOSH.org, toured the UK in promotion of natural and sustainable DIY building. One of the more spontaneous and fulfilling build projects we started and finished as a team of six was a living bender, constructed in eight hours from materials sourced within walking distance of Over the Moon Festival 2012 in Brighton, UK.
Here is yet another possible building project presented to you which requires no formal training, very little money, and techniques/methods that anyone can use. This blog intends to inspire you to take on a natural building project like this one. Don´t have fear if this is your first time working with these techniques and materials — this was our first effort building a bender!
A bender is one of the most simple yet effective natural structures, commonly constructed out of poles of hazel, willow or any other wood that is flexible enough to provide the woven domed shape that gives this structure its integrity. Poles are sourced locally (oftentimes, ideal wood for bender building grows near rivers), sharpened at one end and staked into the ground.
Once the skeleton frame begins to take form, long thin poles can be woven through the roof, providing an aesthetically-pleasing living roof. In fact, benders can continue living for years after construction if watered and provided ample sunlight. How remarkable a concept; a simple structure that provides shelter, a wind barrier, warmth if insulated with blankets, wool or any other natural insulating material and on top of all this, provides humans with delicious oxygen!
The function of our bender was to provide a simple shelter from sun and rain at a weekend festival, as well as to show the general public that beautiful structures can be built in small amounts of time. Additionally, we explained to many people over the festival weekend that no, we had never done this before; no, we did not bring any materials with us (save a mallet and handsaw); no, we hadn't known what resources were available on-site beforehand; yes, it was built in only eight hours with five people working. Through spontaneity, enthusiasm and passionate action, inspiration spread like wildfire over the weekend. Curious people left our bender confident that they could go build their own in their back yard, perhaps to cover the cob oven they built last week!
While our bender was constructed for a short-term purpose, they can be utilized for a more long-term vision. Native Americans lived in wigwams, very similar to benders. In another visit on our UK tour, we visited Landmatters Permculture project in Devon, UK. They had multiple benders up and had been living comfortably in them for years!
Our bender served as a wonderful hangout spot over the weekend. We met many amazing people, some which we are still in contact and even living/traveling with! After the festival, we simply left the bender for the organizers to use as a temporary storage space, further stacking functions on the festival stall/shelter.
Want to bring your community closer and build something great like this? Create a build project listing, named "[Insert your name here]´s Full Power Community-Built Bender" on thePOOSH.org and find some assistance.
Want to get some experience building benders? Check out all the build projects that people have posted. Remember, as Llyod Kahn (author of Shelter) says, "If you're unsure what to do, just start."