Adventurers Turn Dreams Into Reality
I’d wager that most of us with any bit of creativity or zest for escapism have dreamt of living the alternate, storybook life. Frodo’s hobbit house, for instance… who hasn’t fantasized about a safe and snug life in the Shire? Two intrepid souls turn their hobbit fantasy into reality.
THE SELF-MADE HOBBIT You are looking at pictures of a house a young English father built for his family in Wales — built by himself and his father in law with help from passers by and visiting friends. Four months after starting, they were moved in and cosy. The young father estimates 1000-1500 man hours and £3000 put in to the point of livability. Not really so much in house buying terms (roughly £60/sq m excluding labor).
Says the young builder/homeowner:
The house was built with maximum regard for the environment and provided a unique opportunity to live close to nature. Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass produced box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry. Building from natural materials does away with producers’ profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings.
- Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
- Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
- Frame of oak (spare wood) from surrounding woodland
- Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally and aesthetically fantastic and very easy to do
- Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
- Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
- Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture (compared to cement)
- Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings
- Anything you could possibly want is in a rubbish pile somewhere (windows, burner, plumbing, wiring…)
- Wood-burner for heating – renewable and locally plentiful
- Flue goes through big stone/plaster lump to retain and slowly release heat
- Fridge is cooled by air coming underground through foundations
- Skylight in roof lets in natural lightSolar panels for lighting, music and computing
- Water by gravity from nearby springCompost toilet
- Roof water collects in pond for garden etc.
- Main tools used: chainsaw, hammer and 1 inch chisel, little else really.
Oh and by the way I am not a builder or carpenter, my experience is only having a go at one similar house two years before and a bit of mucking around in-between. This kind of building is accessible to anyone. My main relevant skills were being able bodied, having self belief and perseverance and a mate or two to give a lift now and again.
This building is one part of a low-impact or permaculture approach to life. This sort of life is about living in harmony with both the natural world and ourselves, doing things simply and using appropriate levels of technology.
These sort of low cost, natural buildings have a place not only in their own sustainability, but also in their potential to provide affordable housing which allows people access to land and the opportunity to lead more simple, sustainable lives.
For example this house was made to house our family whilst we worked in the woodland surrounding the house doing ecological woodland management and setting up a forest garden, things that would have been impossible had we had to pay a regular rent or mortgage. Most importantly, we did it as an important option to meet the challenges of climate change and peak oil.
THE WEALTHY TOLKIEN FANATIC Asked to design a fitting repository for a wealthy client’s valuable collection of J.R.R. Tolkien manuscripts and artifacts, architect Peter Archer went to the source—the fantasy novels that describe the abodes of the diminutive Hobbits.
“I came back to my client and said, ‘I’m not going to make this look like Hollywood,’” Archer recalled, choosing to focus instead on a finely-crafted structure embodying a sense of history and tradition.
The site was critical too—and Archer found the perfect one a short walk away from his client’s main house, where an 18th-century dry-laid wall ran through the property. “I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to build the structure into the wall?”
Not only did the wall anchor the cottage, but stones from another section were used in the cottages construction. “It literally grew out of the site,” Archer said.
Perhaps stranger things have happened in Tolkien’s world, but few houses in this world go to such lengths in detail to capture a fictional fantasy in the context of architecture.
Here are some of those details: