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Natural Building Colloquium 2015
By Matt Anderson, EA's videographer

Ianto Evans lectures on Natural Building's role in addressing climate change.

In 2014 Matt videographed EA's Two-Week Farmers Course and since then has documented EA events and other notable Earth-based happenings.

This past October I was fortunate enough to document the 20th anniversary gathering of the Natural Building Colloquium in Kingston, New Mexico. Over the course of the week, I filmed 150 people teaching, learning, experimenting, playing and dancing together as one big family.

I learned that in 1994, a vibrant, rag-tag group of experimental building enthusiasts met together for the first time. The meeting's purpose was to explore how buildings–and the way we construct them–might play a central role in addressing the world's biggest problems–issues such as poverty, pollution, resource depletion and climate change.

That ‘Alternative Building Colloquium’ was called together by Ianto Evans, Linda Smiley and Michel G. Smith, founders of the Cob Cottage Company ( Huddled together under an improvised tarp and straw bale structure in the middle of a field, this original group of 70 people laid a massive foundation for what would become the ‘Natural Building’ movement.

It was suggested that everyone meet again the following year at a member's lodge in New Mexico. Searching for a less marginalized term for their important work, the group agreed to call this next meeting the 'Natural Building Colloquium'. From then on, builders of all sorts have been meeting for Colloquiums annually at various locations to collaborate, share and celebrate their work.

This self-governing, loosely affiliated group has spent decades on legitimizing, testing and innovating natural building. This has led (both directly and indirectly) to numerous books, untold amounts of research and experimentation with natural building construction, the popularization of traditional building techniques and reclaimed materials…and to the acceptance of cob and straw bale into various building codes!

As I filmed the 20th anniversary, some participants built a straw bale wall, others sat in on various lectures while others met on the lawn to discuss Natural Building's role in helping climate refugees. Kids gathered around building legend SunRay Kelly to craft a tree house while people mixed cob, stacked bricks for an experimental rocket oven, tamped an earth-bag foundation and rehearsed for the big talent show.

What stays with me is the emergent and unrehearsed potential each of us holds for collaborating in building a new way to live on earth. And in so doing, who knows, 'natural building' might once again just be called 'building'…

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