Monday, April 23, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012


The hoards of stuff that has accrued needs to be dealt with. As a first reaction, the piles are separated according to material - smaller piles. Many of these objects have no direct immediate use. But their storage might suggest some spatial arrangement in itself.

Pathways, fences, garden boundaries, seating, and tables - the materials are sorted and given some temporal substance - a kind of functional display while they await a more specific re-purposing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rubber Foundation

The tire foundation - a technique adopted from Earthship designs - requires about 300 pounds of dirt to be packed into each tire. The tires are a kind of permanent formwork for the dirt and act as giant masonry units, staggered by course. Labor is intensive, but materials are available and the process primitive.

Shoveling, pushing, punching, more shoveling, sledgehammering.The tires plump up to extraordinary sizes and feel like rock upon completion.

To prevent the water issues that the previous wall had we install a french drain from some scavenged pipe and bits of crushed rubble. Ideally we should have at least 6 inches of this above the pipe for good drainage, but are short on rubble. Breaking up more blocks is tiresome and what we feel is a poor use of a solid building material.

Down the street, on a lot where a building once stood many years ago, is a small mound of asphalt. It's hard to guess how many years it's been sitting there, situated very visibly on the corner of the block. In smaller pieces it is perfect for drainage material. So we proceed to clean up the lot while waterproofing our new foundation - another win-win scenario.

Seventy-four tires. Twenty-two thousand pounds of dirt. Thanks to more of our helpers: Lu, Anthony, Connor, Jared, Joe, and Chris.

The room now largely stabilized, we can begin more generous alterations to it. A new walkway forms atop the tire wall, eventually leading to new access to the backyard.

ARC 699 - Advanced Sledgehammering

The west retaining wall in the backroom continues to slowly sag inward. It's unlikely that it would collapse in the next months, but is perhaps the single most problematic thing from keeping the house from getting off the demolition list.

Many of the blocks come out by hand or a few light swings of a hammer - testament to its frailty. What sits behind is a very poorly placed concrete strip footing, about 12" thick and 24" deep. The mass, luckily, is broken in half which puts it into very manageable (.....) 2-ton sections.

After lifting and bracing the ends of the beam that used to sit on the footing, it can be removed. It has an intimidating head start - its mass hanging, leaning toward us held back only by the friction of the soil. It's already been heaved from the expanding and contracting ground - not having been placed below the frost line. After deciding which of us would cut off his limbs to escape for help should it fall, we pick up our sledgehammers and start to get it out.

A day and one bottle of ibuprofen later, the mass is out of the dirt wall and on the basement floor, still in considerably massive pieces. Special thanks to Wade, Tim, Dylan, Greg, and Will for their help in breaking them up and hurling them out.

Each subtraction we make from the structure comes with some uncertainty. We are dumbstruck as to how the house continues to hold itself up as we remove what are supposed to be the main supports. Old, neglected, decrepit; It's far tougher than it seems.

Still, its resilience is only temporary. We need to rebuild the retaining wall and resupport the wooden wall above it. There are few materials that we can use to recreate this; Concrete is unavailable and environmentally damaging. Blocks are possible, but fairly sparse, and would require a number of other materials not readily available: mortar, reinforcement bar, reinforcement grout.

What are available in great abundance are tires. Nearly every abandoned lot carries several and some with mounds of fifty or more. Not only are they available, but they're environmental and visual blight. This is where we're able to act symbiotically, giving new life to otherwise detrimental matter.

So begins the restructuring of our house on waste.