It’s been an exciting week up at Oakridge, where Jess and I, along with both professionals and other amateurs, have been forming the foundation of our eco-retreat house. As the last post revealed, much of the floorplan involves curves (domes and arches). This makes for an odd foundation and a lot of curved forming boards! Let me tell you, those aren’t easy to bend! Each is accurate within an eighth of an inch in vertical and radial dimensions (to achieve the latter we measure from the vertex or center of the dome to every point along its curve). Working with curved materials has forced us all to work and conceive of the construction process in new ways. Rectilinear forms have a certain logic that can be satisfying: right angles, straight lines, corners… these reassure us that there is solidity to a nailed form, a joint, an edge. Curved shapes are more difficult to measure, seem more fragile, more indeterminate. Difficult to nail down. Of course this is just a psychological prejudice: curved forms are significantly stronger (varying with the direction of the force) than rectilinear structures.
On our second day of forming, a sudden hailstorm erupted out of nowhere, sending us scurrying for shelter! This was followed by torrential rain the likes of which we normally only see on a few of the craziest days of winter. The result: footings filled with water. Our clay-thick earth percolates very slowly, so we had to pump the water out with a rented pump. Another day and a half of intense work followed, only to be interrupted with the sequel: an even-greater downpour of hail and rain. More pumping.
Working on this site is exhilarating. To spend extended time outside (in a place so beautiful we never want to leave), doing work that is directly measurable, to see our imagined structure sinking into and rising out of the earth–this makes the two years of planning worth it.
On Monday, in between the two storms, we were rewarded with a rainbow rising out of the valley that our site overlooks. Another curve.