January 31 particpated in a 土作り (Tsuchizukuri) workshop in Fujino, Kanagawa Prefecture. A cohousing complex utilizing natural building materials is being built for four families. The architect is Takahiro Yamada, principle architect of BioForms, an ecological design firm. Yamada-sensei also teaches at Nihon University and Permaculture Center Japan. The cohousing complex features a timber frame, bamboo and earthen plaster on the interior, wool insulation, and wood siding on the exterior. A series of workshops are being held in conjunction with the construction of the building. The workshop I attended involved preparing the earthen plaster. Kyuji Katsumata, a reknowned plasterer based in Tokyo, lead the workshop.Suitable soil from Saitama Prefecture was brought to the sight, mixed with water, and kneaded. Straw was cut in to 5cm lenths using a large engine driven mulcher/chipper.Equal amounts by volume of straw and mud were mixed by foot. A shallow trough was dug in the top of the piles of mud and filled with water. The pilles were covered and left to ferment for half a year before being used.
A blog describing the project can be found at http://blog.canpan.info/nagaya