A High Five from across the Globe

Tash PlantingSWhen I speak of my engagement with the universe – I do it largely tongue-in-cheek, but this project has thrown up the most extraordinary coincidences that engage me on a spiritual level, dare I say it.

I was feeling somewhat rudderless a couple of weeks ago, while waiting for the universe to provide some suitable material for our shed, which we are trying to build out of waste. I do not do waiting well and this definitely unsettled me. As a misguided response I headed to the internet to a site I find fascinating called Fiverr®. which describes itself as “The place for people to share things they’re willing to do for $5.”

I have used this online service once before to edit the sound quality on a video I made for my blog. It was a simple and hassle free service for which I would happily have paid a local teenage techie €20. This time I searched for what was available by way of architectural services  and came across all manner of people from far flung places in the world, offering CAD drawings or model-making or architectural renderings for as little as €5. When I happened upon a “gig” http://www.fiverr.com/sylversurfer/inspire-your-architecture-and-urban-design-through-critique  I thought “Yeah why not?”

I wrote to the person offering this service and asked him to read the blog and put a frame on it. I told him about my big wish to design a low cost housing solution which could have beneficial implications beyond my own project. I sent €5 into the ether…

and seven days later I received the following e-mail

Humble thoughts on the Community Extension Initiative
Dear Natasha,
Firstly, what a great collective effort. I think one of the wonderful things I am taking away from your blog and photos is the collaborative and warm community effort that has emerged from the self-imposed frugality of the initiative. I have advised recently the rebuilding efforts in Tacloban Philippines, after the devastation of Typhoon Hainan. The great takeaway for me was not so much in the technology or logistics of reproving homes and shelter; every community will find a way with its budgets, skills, and local materials. Instead I learned that every community needs first and foremost to focus on jobs and livelihoods.

It reminds me of the experience in Chile after the 2008 earthquake. Relief organizations asked the affected what they needed first. One would have assumed housing. But in fact, housing was fourth out of four things for which the communities asked. Dead last! Number one: boats. To get out there and resume fishing and earning livelihoods for their families. Two: schools. Not because of any overriding educational mission, it was to give their kids a place to stay during the day so BOTH parents could go out to make a living. Three: policy support for small/medium enterprises. So 3 out of 4 were jobs related.
So why the partial tangent? I see from your project not only passion about achieving the technology of a low-cost extension, but also passion about the community that has come together and the catalyst of their own initiatives in urban farming, recycling, art, bee tending, baking (the snacks looked lovely).
Perhaps the frame or vision lies as much in reconnecting with our village-like intertwining of skills and craft, of community and barter, of shared effort and reward. We could very simply order a prefab made in China and probably delivered and assembled for well under EUR5k. Indeed 5k can buy a whole house for some families in the Philippines or India.
But instead you have invigorated a social awakening of neighborly pursuits, of learning and making tangible these academic lessons of sustainability and resilience and less-is-more.
May I humbly suggest: that if you have the ability to do so, that your documentation include not only the lessons of the construction technique, sourcing, labour saving, etc., but also the lessons of synergies with community initiatives and skills. And these would not be hard and fast prescriptions for, say, materials chosen. Indeed, your own thoughtfulness in evaluating potential materials (whether cardboard, charred timber, or plastic) is a far more valuable model of methodology for someone else in the world, than the specific decision that is appropriate for this particular project.
In my architecture school, our ceilings and systems were all exposed, to help us learn as students of building. Perhaps the life of the project after completion, as a learning tool and storytelling aid, can also reveal the techniques, questions and passions that gave it life, and the life it gave to the community.
All the very best,
Sylvester Wong

Is the world not a wonderful place? That someone on the opposite end of the globe would take the time for such a considered response is both moving and inspiring. When I asked him for permission to quote him, he gave it with the same generosity as his time!

And maybe the universe did conspire to send him in my way? I have pulled the tongue from my cheek and have even started wondering if there is a special significance about the number 5:…5kextension, Fiverr, my house number 104 which adds up to 5…Any students of the Kaballah out there to help me out?..

In the meantime our shed is near completion – the ancestors delivered via the angel Ken Milofsky of our local DIY store www.woodworkers.ie  the most fantastic end-of-line materials, given with good intention, which will finish the interior of the shed! So far we have spent a grand total of €36 to build it. It has become a work of pure craft and beauty.

And we have no choice but to wait for the worker bees to choose to persuade their queen that our bee lure will make a lovely new home..

Thank you Sylvester from www.catalyscity.comYou are  welcome in my backyard anytime, and long may you continue your brave work championing communities and design, while staying unbeholden to the corporate world! IMG_0454


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