The One-Day Cob House

| 1/27/2014 8:40:00 AM


“What would it take to raise a cob house in one day?” That was the question Coenraad Rogmans (of House Alive!) and I asked ourselves one sunny morning in September of 2013. 

We were at his place in Oregon during a week-long building party brainstorming on doing a second workshop at our urban homestead in Reno, Nevada.  Coenraad led one on our land the previous May which we held over two three-day weekends.  While a successful workshop it lacked the energy and cohesiveness of his usual 8-day complete cob workshops done on his land in the wooded hills of southwestern Oregon.  Sitting there in the sun in front of his most recent building, the “Jelly Bean”, we couldn’t quite get the right recipe for a meaningful cob experience in the urban setting.

That’s when it hit us: What if we did it in one day? With lots of people. Like a barn raising.  With a festival atmosphere.  Complete with music, face painting, costumes … with Burning Man overtones. Could we do it? Can it be done with cob? 

Cob is clay, sand, and straw mixed with water. It looks like mud…because it is mud. It is also basically adobe, which more folks have some clue about.  It is an ancient way of building that produces long-lasting, beautiful, sculptural homes with thick, sturdy walls and sculpted reliefs and niches.   

It is known as a very slow way to build. It rises, inch by goopy inch, for no more than a foot or maybe 18 inches in a day. It is mixed in small batches by foot. It is human scale.  It is known to be labor intensive.  It is labor intensive. It’s labor intensive in the way that any thing of beauty takes time to create.  It is beautiful and breathtaking and feels right.  A wall compels one to touch it.  It has a deep and profound soulful essence like fire, like being under water, like music, like a full moon on a meadow.   Cob is worth the time it takes, the human hours it takes to get it up, up, up.  

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