edit: a kind young women sent me in this much higher quality photo today, it’s awesome!

so, it’s been a heck of a while since I was at the beach, finally got back! right now I’m trying to put a dent in our firewood requirements for the winter (we only burn what we cut ourselves) and good days for the beach tend to be good days to use the chainsaw.

I moved over to a corner of the main beach that was less visible behind a rock outcropping. there’s also an old portion of the fortifications, rock and concrete, that are crumbling away. I thought that was a good place to think about things – there was a man-made element to respond to, as well as a visual disconnect from previous stack sites, even though I could just walk around the outcropping and be surrounded by materials I had seen before.

so, I started out with a reverse-taper square tower, as you see above. my initial idea was to make a series of small cubes, around 18″ on a side, as close together as possible. I think a Cartesian space of stones could be really cool, and I keep trying to do it, but I always get distracted… this time I was distracted by the idea of suddenly switching scales in the material I was using, an idea proposed by my super interesting friend Aaron R.

the band of smaller was an initial attempt, I was going to alternate back and forth between large and small bands that were related in height to the size of their components. however, as you can see, I accidentally started flanging outwards, but decided it was more fitting for the materials; additionally, I have only tried to vault a few times, and the corner between the outcropping and ruined fortification seemed a plausible distance to span. I widened slowly till I thought I could make it across, then, starting with the longest rocks I could find, bridged the gulf.

it took a long time to get the top of the structure covered, with a few tense moments where I was sure it would collapse. I knew I had to build up the stonework so that there was an interior arch embedded in the top layer that would support heavier stones, so I worked for a long time to make the outer edges sufficiently heavy as I worked my way in. a young woman asked me at one point, “how do you get them to stay?” I could only say “gravity. I have to just keep adding layers.” it’s true, it’s no fancy “true” arch, no complex system of self- supporting compression; it’s just a crappy corbel vault. it’s barely more complex than the post and lintel system. the same girl asked whether she could sit on it. I told her I’d rather be the only one to test it; I’d rather be the only one missing limbs due to my poor construction. here’s the roof before I stepped onto it:

somehow, it stayed standing when I walked on! I was so proud!

I know it’s not that far a span, but the concrete wall seemed so very far away when I was taking these. I got back on solid ground as soon as I had saved the pics.

I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t think of anything else to do with the part where I had widened it but had nowhere to vault to; the top lip seemed so out of place. I guess it did complete the sweeping outlines of the column, which is kind of a nice effect.

finally, it was time to get inside. this almost scared me more than standing on top. if I was on top, I might have some way to jump off as it started to collapse; underneath, I had little escape. I can’t scoot around very fast on the rocks, and it it collapsed, I’d be hurting pretty bad. it didn’t move as I got underneath, but I didn’t test it by poking around to much. I sat pretty still. the next picture shows looking up at the roof along the column; you can see why I was scared. pretty shoddy work!

all in all, it was definitely a great day, personally satisfying at the very least. the sunburn is always worth it. I probably won’t think so when I get skin cancer, but I am content to be young and stupid for a bit longer.

2 thoughts on “shelter

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