About Us

Paulina Wojciechowska

Paulina Wojciechowska of Earth, Hands and Houses.

Paulina hard at work

Paulina is a qualified architect in the UK, and has specialised in natural building for the last 18 years.

She spent most of her impressionable years in Afghanistan and India, where she was surrounded by indigenous architecture. It was during this time she developed a subconscious  passion for honesty, modesty and harmony in design.

After completing her architecture degree, she realised that modern building styles, methods and materials were not for her, and she set off to follow her passion. She first studied earth building in CAL-Earth Californian institute of earth art and architecture in the Mohave Desert, where she built an earth dwelling out of Earthbags. She later studied with the Canelo Project. Subsequent projects were with the Yaqui Indians close to Hermosillo in Northern Mexico, building a community house out of earthbags, then working on the ‘Casas de Cantan’ project, building houses for poor women living in the slums of Cuidad Obregon in Mexico. She finally taught earthbag construction with Sioux Indians (Oglala) at Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota before returning to England.

After all this amazing experience Paulina stayed in one place for a while to write her book, and she taught the Technology and Development module on the MSc. Programme in CENDEP (Centre for Development and Emergency Practice) at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford.

From around the year 2000, Paulina’s focus has been on spreading the knowledge she has gained as far and wide as possible through her Earth, Hands and Houses organisation. With a core philosophy of providing very reasonably priced workshops, Paulina is bringing about her vision of allowing nearly everyone to come and learn these amazing techniques for themselves. She has designed and built three straw bale houses in Poland in this time, and taught around the world, most recently in Turkey, Zambia and Thailand.  She is also still a practising architect, with a focus on designing structures built from natural materials.

Hear Paulina talk about her experience and vision for Earth, Hands and Houses:

Antony Dennis

Paulina and Antony sitting in front of a clay plastered wall

Paulina and Antony, doing what they love…

Antony came into natural building in 2012 when he met Paulina at an Earth, Hands and Houses workshop. He fell in love with natural building, and his life changed forever. He presented all Earth, Hands and Houses workshops alongside Paulina for 4 years and owns his own straw bale house on his olive grove in the mountains of Spain.

Antony is unqualified in anything to do with building and teaching… but he has a love, a natural talent, and years of experience in both. He has systematically taken apart and re-built every house he has lived in for the last 25 years. Between 1992 and 2000 he set up and ran what became the foremost technology training company in the world in a niche area of silicon chip design. He has a natural talent in making complicated things easy to understand.

Antony also specialises in not specialising in anything – he likes to know enough about a broad range of subjects rather than everything about just one. He has a deep love of people, and really appreciates their differences. These perspectives enable him to see the world from many angles and explain the range of possibilities in natural building so you can make the right choices for your situation.

Antony’s talents, along with his ability to hold a caring, openhearted community space make his workshops both an informative and pleasurable experience.

 

Jarema Dubiel

Jarema Dubiel

Jarema Dubiel

Jarema has taught many courses with Earth Hands and Houses since 2002, in both Polish and English. He is a well known environmentalist in Poland, and has made many radio and television appearances. He is often one of the first to be called on by communities all over Poland when environmental issues threaten the environmental health of a region. Jarema has also given key-note lectures in English on toxic materials at the Natural Building Colloquium in Czech in 2004 and in Oxford Brookes University in 2002

Jarema is an ecologist, teacher and journalist, who did his Masters Degree in the field of Sociology at the University of Warsaw. In 1990 He initiated the project ‘Green Telephone’ (an environmental help line), for the Polish Environmental Centre in Warsaw, which he then ran for the next 10 years. He has been the coordinator of many environmental campaigns in Poland such as those against nuclear power plants (thanks to his campaign there are still no nuclear power stations in Poland), waste incineration and the over use of pvc and polyurethane materials.

Jarema runs lectures and workshops for children and youth on how to identify and avoid toxic elements in our surroundings, outdoor survival, and of course, many aspects of natural building.

Jarema’s teaching focus is now running bi-lingual natural building workshops in Polish and English for Earth Hands and Houses in Poland.

You can follow Jarema’s work in Polish, via:

Polish facebook group: Domy z piasku, gliny, slomy
Blogs: mamaziemia.blogspot.com and rakstop.engo.pl

 

Paulina’s Natural Building Story

Article from “The art of Natural Building” by Paulina Wojciechowska edited by Joseph F. Kennedy Networks Productions, Inc. 1997

Earthmother Dwelling: Listening to the elements, exploring inner freedom

I spent most of my impressionable years in Afghanistan and India, where I was surrounded by indigenous architecture. It was during this time, I suspect that I developed subconsciously the passion for honesty, modesty and harmony in design.

When I started architecture I explored how the city in its origin embodied myths that connect it to the world, with everyone’s lives being grounded by this connection. I worked with the premise that, notwithstanding progress and modern mobility, significant aspects of our beings remains biological. In his writings on the biological basis of psychoanalysis, Peter Fuller shows how myths arise from the same substratum as dreams, and that they play a significant role in how we engage with the world. These myths are neither fiction nor flights of fantacy, but the concrete manifestation of this mythopoetic dimension of our being.

…Rejecting… mechanical imagery as the basis for architecture, my work has been an exploration of being, where it interrupts with the structure and “feel” of the city. I have attempted to show the city through its buildings, might, form, spatial realms suffused with character and mood where lives could be fruitfully enacted.

Throughout my studies I had a passion for what I call “primitive” architecture. By primitive I don’t mean backward, but quite the opposite to be primus means to be the first. To be at the beginning. It is good for the mind to go back to the beginning, because the start of any established human activity is its most wonderful moment. This view can teach us the fundamental principles of each invention, thereby showing the possibility of taking another path.

Most ‘primitive’ anonymous buildings were constructed in response to such conditions as climate, orientation, and the easy availability of building materials. As the building material dictated the form of the dwelling, the builders were sensitive to it. They worked with their materials, not against them as in so much of today’s architecture.

During the summer of 1996, I finally embarked on my long awaited journey to discover indigenous materials and techniques. One of my earliest and most exciting discoveries was the arch. Here was a form that occurs all around us in nature. The arch allows us to be free of the need to use wood, and materials such as concrete and steel, which are high in embodied energy. All naturally occurring structures use the arch form as their structural element…

I first learnt about Earth Architecture from the Iranian-born visionary architect, Nadr Khalli, during an internship at his school of Earth Art and Architecture, Cal-Earth. The islamic influence wasn’t new, due to my prior years spent in Afghanistan, but the materials and techniques were. However my passion for the arch had noting to do with dome or vault or any type of symmetrical islamic architecture. It has to do with nature. I didn’t want to necessarily imitate nature. I wanted to feel the freedom that nature appears to posses. I had experienced so many constraints in the world I came from; I wanted to escape it . I wanted to become free. I wanted to explore my strength. To understand and celebrate the possibilities of the earth in my hands.

As I worked with this totally fluid materials, I felt its lack of constraints, its freedom. I wanted it to lead me, to allow the earth that freedom. I didn’t want to make it do something which imitated another material. I wanted to set it free, to listen to it. I believe that all buildings should be designed and built with sensitivity… designing and building are to me like sculpting. When a sculptor carves in to the rock he listens to the rock telling him what it should become. Creating a dwellings the same to me; its about understanding the material, the need of the inhabitant, the climate, being in harmony with the environment and, most of all, feeling passion during the process.

At the moment, my ideal house is one which lives in such harmony with its environment, a house that is difficult to notice, like an animal that blends into its surroundings. So many houses appear like warts on our landscape. When you drive in the countryside, how much nicer it would be if you couldn’t see the houses, if they harmoniously blended in, like the houses in Afghanistan that climb the hillsides and are made of the same earth as the hillside. Only at night, when the lights come on, do you see the extent of development.

In my ‘Earthmother Dwelling’ that I built at Cal-Earth, these are some of the things that I aimed to achieve. The ‘Earthmother Dwelling’ was built in a close dialogue with the essence of the site. Listening to the elements, letting the earth tell me what it wanted to become. Being from the architectural icons of traditional cultures. Listening openly to my inner voices, letting them guide me to achieve coherence and happiness.

Leave a Reply