Urban Designer - Vernacular Architect - Maritime Planner - Owner-Builder - Servant of Piglet - Educator - Author - Revolutionary - Peacenik - Tour Guide 

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

Minimal Building Institute Print E-mail

ImageI was approached by a group of women to run a course to show them how to build a house.





They had already learnt how to build furniture and wanted to go further. The "Minimal Building Institute" was born. At first the course focused on learning technical skills. I was an architect and that was what I thought it was all about. Over time the course changed to focus on the real problems of owner-building. How do you deal with neighbours. How do you deal with building inspectors. How do you deal with yourself.

The courses were fun. We had very long lunches with endless delicious food. My worst student was also the best cook. She provided one wonderful dish after another, but could not quite grasp the intricacies of sharpening a saw. Indeed she went further. She the only person I have ever known who could get a straight and true saw to cut a curve. After the farewell celebration I did not expect to see her again.

Three years later she rang up to invite me to a house warming. "Whose house?" I asked tentatively. "Mine" she replied indignantly. "Who built it?", I enquired even more cautiously. "I did" she responded. "How?" I asked. "I just did everything which you explained in the course." I had to know. "What exactly did I say?"

"That was great advice about making the building inspector your friend, for example. I invited him around to look at the site before we did anything. While he was there I asked if he could show me how to sharpen a saw and cut a length of timber. He stayed for lunch. Before long seven building inspectors were coming abound every weekend, with their families, to build my house. I provided all the food. The whole project, as you suggested it should be, was fun from beginning to end."

The house was magnificent. I could not believe the quality of the workmanship.
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