We came back of our trip with the conviction that self-sufficiency was the key to many problems that we encounter every day because it implies investment and a local work. Materials, food, energy, water, are elements that we can produce, recover or transform but today we don’t really control anymore. We buy everything without asking ourselves, where it comes from, its carbon footprint and where goes our money. Therefor this notion makes a lot of sense for us. Why bringing food or materials from the other side of the planet when we can produce it directly locally. The houses analyzed during the trip were almost always built 100% with local materials (with some exceptions like steel beams in Lingzi or the metallic roofs). There was a question of cost of the construction and the carbon footprint in these previous examples.
Isn’t it easier to build your house with the soil present on site, or with the wood from the trees around rather than buy materials produced in another country?
To grow yourself or in a community your food?
To produce your own electricity?
To collect the water from the rain?
To use your waste, to transform it?
To take care of the wastewater?
All of those questions made us interrogate on a specific notion of self-sufficiency, the self-determination. (Definition Oxford: The process by which a person controls their own life.) It is the action through what the people choose freely they political and economic system. This self-sufficiency allows us to have some independence from dominating authorities that can be private or public. Therefor this point is crucial in our process. We met people that on a financial point of view were poor but had a quite happy life. A half time job to earn a little bit of money for what they could not produce, and the rest of the time, work on the house and take care of the kids, the garden and produce the food for the family. Yes, self-sufficiency needs a lot of investment but today we work to buy products instead of producing it ourselves. Those questions were also present in Léo and Camille’s mind. With Hellen we participated to some of the workshop at the Château Neuf des Peuples. We got along pretty well with Léo and Camille. After a lot of discussion on work, projects and ideas we established a partnership between our two associations. The objective is/ was? to develop construction, experiment ideas and participate to their project with our experiments. After long talks we established the list of needs, resources and future activities to elaborate a plan of action. The objective, aim for self-sufficiency. Of course, we cannot produce everything and buy nothing but we can reduce the economic and ecological bills of the site. We proposed them to use the site for experimentation and include this project to our PFE (final master project of architecture). We prepared our PFE and made a first experimentation on the site in May/June 2017. The final project we presented was divided in two of parts. First the trip ArchiTakeTour, where we presented our approach, one house precisely and the global experience. Then the second part was our experimentation on the castle. An analysis of the work already done, the experiment, and the future plans to approach self-sufficiency. Our state of mind was close with Camille and Léo. It was easy to prepare our PFE with them. A logic of using again the materials on the site was put in place on the site. The rubbles where smashed and then used on the muddy path to access to the castle. The green waste where used either to make compost or for gardening.
We tried to build a small structure that would become outdoors toilet. To do so, we used two pallets, that had been used to transport materials, wood cut in the bushes, and straw cut near the garden. We then used technics that we had observed in different countries. A wooden woven structure that we had seen in Georgia and in Romania. We then covered in with a mix cob (mix of mud and straw) that we had seen in Eastern Europe, Middle East and India. For the roof, we collected large bamboo (10, 12cm) in a village close by, and used them to make tiles like we had seen in Thailand. Then we build the doors using woven bamboo like we had seen in all South-East Asia.
During this experience, we realized the time it took to build using primary materials. Moreover, we noticed some problems of conception and realization due to the lack of knowledge in those specific technics. But the experience was good and we will finish this construction later. We then planned a couple of workshop for the years coming to use as better as possible the resources from the site.
The 29th of June we presented our work in front of a jury at the Architecture School of Toulouse and got our diploma with honors. We then enjoyed our summer after this long year, but still by going to the castle to help Camille and Léo. From a common point of view, we decided that this adventure had to continue. So, we decided to start this autumn, to organize workshop in order to follow the plans done for the PFE. We will start by workshops dedicated to the construction of structure that will help with the management of wastes on the site. Then we will do some constructions that will collect and purify the different waters from the site.
The adventure ArchiTakeTour does not end with our architect diploma but is evolving and makes us want to discover and learn always more. This year will be even more active for the association, with the different workshops, a publication in “Plan Libre”, a small architecture newspaper in Occitanie (French region) that had been following us since the beginning and some conference/presentation planned for next November and the publication of the full trip. Hellen is continuing his double diploma and has just started a Master in Civil Engineering at l’INSA of Toulouse, and Quentin is preparing a PHD, which he should start next year.
This ArchiTakeTour trip project is of course not perfect. We travelled for 17000km in just 5 months and a half. We passed by very shortly in some countries. There was probably a lack of time and knowledge on the sites, the people that we met, on their culture, their beliefs and their way of life. We spend at most two days with the inhabitants. “time” is a weakness of our analysis. Another difficulty was the language. Even when we had a translator, it is possible that we missed some important information. This project is in no case a perfect science and we admit its limits. It simply witnesses the observation done by two architecture students on a distance during a limited period of time. It will have given us a large vision of architecture. This project was very instructive. Let’s put aside the architecture knowledge we talk about before. We are coming back from this project with the conviction that something is going wrong in our system. The question of the political representation and the decision made for the common public. It is obvious that the student and young architects that we are must act, be more involved to make our system evolve. We already said it, self-sufficiency is very important to fight against inequality. It helps people to be more independent and increase the self determination of people. It also improves the local resilience which makes the local economy more stable Build locally, produce locally (energy or food), buy local are elements that the architect must take in consideration during the conception. Architecture is political. We cannot ignore the importance of what we build locally or worldwide. There are a couple of things that we want to develop in our future project. Of course, self-sufficiency, with seems very important but also interesting. Also, the idea of sharing, communicating, and social network. We learned a lot with those inhabitants, but there is so much more to learn, to discover, to explore, to experiment. We would like to continue to share our knowledge with the most people as possible. This trip has been a succession of amazing landscape, smells, colors, cities that have etched us in good or less good ways, but it was mainly encounters. People that travelled a bit with us, guided us, helped us, welcomed us, and gave us a new vision of the hospitality and another vision of the world. For all of this we thank them.
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