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News Archive

New Bus Shelter in Cornwall Uses Traditional Skills and Materials

Clayworks, a partner organisation of INTBAU, has shared details of a recent project with us which should be of interest to many INTBAU members. The article below was written by Adam Weismann, Director at Clayworks.



We were approached by Cornwall County Council to construct and design a bus shelter that would represent building with vernacular Cornish building materials. The head of conservation, Andrew Richards, met up with us to discuss the possibility and he was very supportive of us building with simple natural materials. We decided to utilise only local building materials, local stone for base, local clays, sands and straw for the cob, cornish oak for frame and recycled Delabole slate for the scantle slate.

Students work to construct the bus shelterAfter speaking with Andrew Richards, it was decided to try and involve the local secondary school. We approached the head of school as well as the 'construction program' for Helston Secondary School. They were thrilled that students who were involved with their 'construction program' would be able to work with simple, natural materials to build a bus shelter for their school. The 'construction programme' consists of students who were opting to start hands on building training at an early age. Often these students were not performing well in other areas so they were given the opportunity to start learning about basic building skills. Normally the students are involved with 'modules' that consist of using conventional building materials, such as cement and block/brick, plastering with gypsum, building with tanalised timber, etc. The head of the program was very enthusiastic that his students should be given the chance to build with materials that they had never considered using before, such as with lime, clay, hardwood oak, stone and reused slate.  

The students were involved with every aspect of the build. They helped lay the stone in lime mortar,  helped build the cob wall, helped with the draw knifing of pegs and the erection of the timber frame,  laying scantle slate in lime and lastly, limewashing the bus shelter. Ben Verry was the scantle slater, Jamie Lovekin did the timberframe and Paul Finbow did the stonework. We, Clayworks, did the rest. It was a real joy to work with the students and they all turned out to be very intuitive builders. Many of them were brought up on farms so they were familiar with hand tools and working outside.

The council has expressed interest in doing another three bus shelters- situating them close to local schools so we can work with the students. We feel that this was an amazing opportunity to teach the younger generation that there are alternatives to building and designing with 'dead' materials such as cement and block.

Many of the students were concerned about the construction techniques since they had never been exposed to them before. A few, who weren't brought up on farms, were more concerned about how muddy their new trainers and track suits  might get!  By observing and building with the students, we saw with our own eyes the power of these simple materials. We watched as the kids became uninhibited- allowing their personalities to shine. The more mud they got on their clothes, the more laughter was had. Its now hard not to smile every time we drive by the bus shelter.

For more information on Clayworks, please click here to visit their website.