The Shelter Blog has been inactive since May, 2019. Too much to do! From this point on, Lloyd’s Blog will have the buildings, vehicles, and home-related posts such as what has previously appeared here. Go to

Natural Buildings: Photographs by Catherine Wanek

A natural building


Since discovering straw bale construction in 1992, Catherine Wanek has traveled widely to spread the straw bale gospel, and documenting traditional and modern examples of natural building. She co-edited The Art of Natural Building in 2002, wrote and photographed The New Strawbale Home in 2003, and wrote The Hybrid House in 2010. Her photos are featured in Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter.

Shown above, Thierry Dronet built this fairy-tale hybrid of straw bales and cordwood masonry, topped with a “living roof,” as his workshop and stable for two horses in eastern France. Bale walls act to retain the hillside, with a plastic sheet barrier and a “French drain” to wick away moisture. Time will tell whether this practice is advised.


In Brittany, France, owner-builder Elsa LeGuern designed a straw bale home for herself with wide overhangs to protect the bales from storms blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean. The framework is a rectangle, with curved straw bale walls.

CW-11 CW-13

At the Lama Foundation, a spiritual community near Taos, NM, a forest fire destroyed most of the existing structures in 1996. In 1999, an event called Build Here Now was organized to help their reconstruction efforts. This passive solar straw bale residence has interior adobe and straw/clay walls for thermal mass, and was finished with earthen floors and plasters. The timber-frame structure, now known as “The Treehouse,” was designed by SunRay Kelley, and utilizes ponderosa pine trees killed in the fire.


The “honey house” by builders Kaki Hunter and Doni Kiffmeyer in Moab, Utah. This dome/vaulted structure was constructed from earth-filled sandbags and plastered with earth and lime plasters.


Lars Keller and a vaulted straw bale dormitory at an agricultural college in Jutland, Denmark. Exterior is lime plaster.

Welsh furniture maker David Hughes built this charming thatched timber-frame workshop, choosing the organic shapes of oak trees that wouldn’t suit more rectilinear structure.

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