Homes, Secrets & Treasures

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Terracotta, Encaustic cement tiles

DSC_0311Yesterday, I was invited to visit an old house in our village. It has been restored with respect to the structure of the house, by using the old materials but also by adding some new, modern elements, such as a floor on polished concrete. Most of the floors were covered with terracotta and encaustic cement tiles, as these kind of tiles are the most common here in our region.

Very often, you just need to clean them and redo the joints but sometimes, you need to renew the floor completely. However, it is probably possible and not too difficult to keep the old carrelage and reuse it again.

Work in Progress


Together with the students of Istituto Pachini we are finalizing the videos interview to the owners of Casa De Corte and Stavolo Fontane Martin.
Students interviewed also professionals and other university students involved in the houses recording.
The work takes long time in fact we are dealing with 13 students with 13 different opinions, each has a task – videos transcription – summaries – translations  - cutting – editing – sound – subtitles. Here a little preview of the work in progress!!!! Good vision.

Meeting in Sofia and Koprivshtitsa

Last month, partners met in Sofia, Bulgaria for the fifth international meeting, hosted by EMC.

Next to our "normal" project work, we had a workshop about “How to collect, structure and publish data”, given by Hagen Graf from to the project team and participants from institutions EMC work with.

You can follow the content by reading the tutorial here.

Very interesting was the meeting next day in Koprivshtitsa, a historic place where Bulgarian Revival architecture is still preserved.

There we discussed with architect Stefan Beyazov, author of the town plan, awarded as Bulgarian architect N 1 of year 1999, Lubomir Mihailov, expert Ministry of Culture, Asun Navarro – a project expert, architect, working for CAUE Perpignan, a departemental service for Culture, Architecture, Urbanisation and Environment “The moral necessity of vernacular architecture”.
The Bulgarian experts gave a short introduction about the past activities and current situation in Koprivshtitsa, we shared and discussed practices in advising people, organizations and municipalities regarding restoration of (protected) houses, villages, historic sections of towns and compared policies about regional development and heritage in our countries.

An usefull and free drawing sorftware to record a house

As you are recording  your house,in case you need a drawing programme, we suggest a draft programme called DraftSight. It is a free 2D CAD application that lets you imagine creating, editing, managing, viewing and sharing your  DWG / DXF files, which was  was built with CAD users in mind, ,and is able to successfully open AutoCAD files. Besides that, it also allows to create PDF files. Onviously, this 2D drafting tool from Dassault Systemes is a complete drafting solution for everyone from a student to a professional. Some of main advantages of this programme are following:

- a simple to use drafting software  and  fast and lightweight in terms of footprint and system resources. It increases the work speed and saves a lot of time and efforts. 

- a clean interface that is easy to understand and use. Any person without much knowledge about the DraftSight software can use it

Any type of design can be drafted using DraftSight, drafting software. It is available online and can be downloaded both free version and professional version . All DraftSight users can engage in interaction, as well as numerous online educational resource, they can ask questions and thoughts to share with other users, providing an environment free of DraftSight SwYm participate in the community.


Les casots, a piece of agrocultural vernaculaire architecture

366/175The very old, small shacks, in circular, rectangular or squared form, are always built with dry natural stones of the region, mostly with the back to a wall, a rock or on a terrace.
They fit perfectly in the geometrical structure when built on teracced vineyards.
You can find them near a way or a cistern, often a bit hidden. They served as shelters for the wine-growser, to store their materials or as a roof for the water tank.

In the South of the Languedoc-Roussllion you can still find a lot of them, even though many disappeared over the years. When still in use, they are often restored in the traditional way: with lime mortar and visible stones.

These are beautiful, little pieces of architecture.


Cortijo el Paraiso: Laser scanning in Andalucia

Following the succesful meeting and presentations organised by our partners Doctum in Granada, we worked with the Doctum team and a local architect to carry out a laser scanning survey of one of their houses.Panoramic photography Cortijo el Paraiso is a typical Andalucian country farmhouse, with typical thick walls and small windows. This provided a particular challenge for us to survey - normally, the ability to see external survey targets from windows makes the orientation of the scanner more accurate. Therefor we had to use a different method, using spherical targets alongside the checkerboard targets that we used in our survey of the Casa de Corte in Italy.

Cofio Cwmorthin: recording slate mining houses

Tai llyn, CwmorthinFollowing the one day conference held in Machynlleth in 2011, we had remained in contact with the team at Cofio Cwmorthin. Mel and his team have been recording the history of this valley and the four slate mines that worked there. The valley is said to have been inhabited from the 11th century, with the last families leaving in the 1940's following the closure of the slate mines. Situated at some 330m, above the village of Tanygrisiau and the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, the valley is a harsh environment, as we discovered during a snowy recce in April.

Ecological Bricks


Nowadays, there are different building methods. These methods are more environmentaly friendly than the old ones, since the materials used respect the environment. Now, it is cheaper to build and maintain a house.
We would like to present a new ecological brick, which is built with hemp grains and no clay.

The brick is formed with vegetable grains of hemp, natural lime and a mix of minerals, besides the sand from the natural caves of Guadix. All these components are mixed and pressed into solid bricks. Then they are left at the air to dry.

One of the advantages of these natural bricks is its insulating component, what assures that houses made of hemp have the same features than cave houses so typical in the region of Granada. Houses made of this material called “Cannabric” have a high thermal, acoustic and environmental comfort. These kind of bricks have the capacity to adjust temperature and humidity, same as a cave house but with thinner external walls, only 30cm thickness.

They are also resistant to big loads and fire, so buildings with several floors could be made with this kind of bricks. Furthermore, they take care of the environment!

Old houses are "green"

Writing the Tutorial How to protect old houses technically, we find out that old houses are "green", or with other words, more energy efficient than experts initially estimate.

Often people make the isolation of old walls to make them more energy efficient, which hinders the walls to breathe and moisture to evaporate. Using the wrong type of insulation you can cause problems with the health of residents and possible destruction of the wall itself.

Older houses live and breathe in a very different way from buildings under construction today. People have built homes with tradition and hundreds of years of experience, and testing of local materials. They knew well how they work and what material for what purpose is placed.

Techniques for measurement of energy efficiency in use today, underestimate construction methods and properties of materials used in old houses. System for assessing heat loss from walls, known as U-Value, doesn’t take into account the energy efficiency of traditional materials used in the past, such as hedges and stucco, adobe and wood. Measurement systems apply only to modern methods of construction, comprising concrete and bricks.

Reconstructions to improve the energy efficiency of older houses are more likely to violate the integrity of the building rather than improvements. Owners of old houses can disrupt the integrity of their homes to try to make them more "green." Owners forget that traditional ways of building houses that were used in the past and the old traditions quite different from those applied in recent times. Studies show that 79% of older buildings are more energy efficient than the initial estimates of the experts and their owners. This means that owners can forget about "green improvements" that are not only unnecessary, but can also damage the building in irreparable ways.

Cataloguing, Listing, Scheduling

The cataloguing is a study method planned on parameters based on the "objects" of the search features.   

It allows to record information with pre-arranged criterions, according to norms and standard frames, and to get a data bank, now available on information technology, that allows to know the object according to a prearranged scheme (the card/chart) using a specific terminology, to seek analogies and differences among various objects, to quantify the consistence of "objects" that have the same characteristics, to deepen the studies according to recurrent or special subjects. 

The project Exploring Houses, using a shared recording template and following a recording toolbox, faces the theme of the cataloguing of some architecture examples with the purpose to share a process of search that aims to put in evidence analogies or technical, stylistic, constructive differences among Countries that have different histories, local resources and territorial peculiarities.


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