Chrissy Giles
October 21, 2014
Week 4

In what ways does our “home” shape the way we live and how does this connect us to our environment?

My idea explores the concept of living spaces. I want to explore the relationship between the outside world and the spaces which we claim as our own. How does the concept of “home” affect the way we treat our non-home? For the past century, there has been a general disconnect between the spaces we choose to live in—that is, the spaces where we spend most of our time…our “home”—and the environment. Our environment is under threat because of our current methods of survival. We are taking from the planet without giving back. How can our living spaces change our relationship to the earth, and ultimately change how we are treating our environment?

In this project, I want to use 3D printing to create a model of my home, a Pacific yurt nestled in the woods of Northeast Olympia. I want to re-create my yurt with the intention of learning how to build it.

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I will explore why yurts have been used for thousands of years as the primary shelter for nomads. I hope to gain an understanding of physical structures and the purpose they serve for our needs, both functional and aesthetic. Furthermore, I want to study the link between lifestyle and the concept of “home,” and use this analysis as a means to explore our current method of survival.

My overarching goal is to find out how 3D printing can help build cheap, accessible, and sustainable homes for people. Reaching beyond my motivation to learn how to build and design prototypes for simple, small-scale homes, I also want to teach others how to be more appreciative, creative, and aware of their natural surroundings.

“When one buys a house today, he/she is essentially going on a voyage on planet Earth for the next thirty or forty years. Considering the condition of the planet (due to years of abuse), our [homes] must now be self-contained. Our numbers are too great for us to continue taking from the planet—we must now stand with it” (Reynolds 8).

Before 3D printing can guide us toward a more sustainable future, we must revisit how our ancestors “stood with the land”. Yurts are an ideal example of adaptability in a home and lifestyle. For thousands of years, they have existed in nomadic cultures of Central Asia. “The Mongolian pastoral nomads relied on their animals for survival and moved their habitat several times a year in search of water and grass for their herds” (Leicester 6).

An emphasis on mobility and non-permanence means that nomadic, Mongolian living spaces had to be built with transportability in mind. “Not only did gers [the Mongolian word for ‘home’] make this easy by being so fast to set up, they were also very light. Large family gers could be entirely dismantled in an hour and hauled on two or three pack animals” (Nat’l Geographic Education).

As a physical structure, Mongolian yurts were a response to a conversation with the environment. One could argue that perhaps they didn’t design the yurt, but their physical surroundings forced the yurt into existence. For example, “the dwellings for the nomadic cultures of the Central Asian steppe [existed in] a very windy biome, and the circular shape of yurts made them able to resist winds from any direction. The sloping, aerodynamic shape of the roof also meant that winds were unlikely to tear off roof beams” (Nat’l Geographic Education).

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The correspondence between the outside world and the inside world is the symbolic essence of our relationship with nature. As the environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy said, “We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves”.

In today’s world, yurts continue to symbolize freedom and connection to the outdoors. Beginning in the 1990’s, Oregon and several other states have incorporated yurts into their Parks Department as year-round camping facilities (Gauper). Yurts are, as they always have been, cheap, easy to construct, and aesthetically beautiful. Their circular shape represents a pattern in nature that we simply can not find in suburban developments. “Living in the round is a way of living more closely with nature. Everything around us is round- the moon, the earth, eggs in a nest, the trunks of trees. As a lifelong nature enthusiast, I want my home to connect me with nature, not separate me from nature” (Ross). The circle represents the unbroken cycle of stuff.

So, why would I want to make something that’s already been designed before? I believe this is the first step to understanding what “home” means. We have no way of understanding the context of the earth at large if we cannot draw relationships to our immediate surroundings, and look inside ourselves. Evaluating what is truly necessary for survival is essential to rewriting our destructive “current method of survival,” and creating a narrative of sustainability.

The tiny house movement is a beautiful example of how an increasing number of individuals are interested in reconstructing this narrative. By owning fewer things and living in a home as small as 80 square feet, mobility and non-permanence are thrust to center stage.  This way of living dismantles the American ideal that owning property, and allows people to live without having to buy or rent land.

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What is worth 3D printing in a world that is already loaded with too much stuff? We can use this technology to evaluate how we are making our bare necessities.

Works Cited:

Gauper, Beth. “Yippee for Yurts.” Yurts in Clear Lake and the Upper Midwest. N.p., 12 Sept. 2012. Web. Oct. 2014.
Leicester, John. “Mongolian Herders Struggling to Survive.” Mongol Tolbo(2001): 6-7. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.
Reynolds, Michael E. Earthship. Vol. 1. Taos, NM: Solar Survival, 1990. Print.
Ross, Rachel. “A Firsthand Look at the Magnolia 2300 Yurt – the First Energy Star Home in British Columbia.” Inhabitat: Design Will Save The World. N.p., 29 July 2012. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.
“Yurt.” National Geographic Education. Verizon Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.