The last month at Panya has been spent participating in a Natural Building Internship. I went into it with a bit of trepidation, having never build or to have wanted to build anything in my life (I don’t even assemble Ikea stuff), and Kelly was intrigued and wondering how natural building could actually work. The project was to redesign and rebuild the Sala which is the community space where we eat and relax.
We started with building a proper office where people could set up laptops and which will house the hundreds of books available (I helped make the bookshelves). We use mud bricks that are made in the dry season. They are made of a mix of clay, sand, and rice husks. The we use a fresh mud mix of the same materials as the mortar. For this mud mix we dug a huge hole in the ground and every day about 5 people get to stomp around in the mud adding clay and rice husks to get the right consistency. It amazing how fast walls come together, and what’s great is you can shave down the bricks easily so you can make all kinds of interesting shapes.
We also built some arched walls, columns, benches, and stairs. There is still lots of finishing work to be done. I really enjoyed doing things like plastering the walls and painting (we use paint made from water, tapioca flour, and natural color), but when it comes to doing things like taking out the support beams without the roof collapsing I tried to stay far away. A great learning experience overall!