Those of us living in American buildings today believe that the best structures were designed by architects and constructed by engineers. The built world is something made by others which we populate.
However, civilizations all over the world have long existed in constructions that were made by hand. People personally made the buildings in which they lived and, because of this hands-on creation method, knew how to repair and maintain their structures themselves. There was a sense of empowerment in building these structures, which is lacking today. There is a beauty and a natural quality; a sense of being created, not built, which is inherent in these structures. In addition there are “sustainable” lessons to be learned from these structures created by hand, such as how to do more with less and how to do more without the benefit of power tools.
Built by Hand is an incredibly inspiring and empowering book which has been described as “the most extensive documentation ever published of traditional (“vernacular”) buildings throughout the world.” It includes examples from nearly every continent, as well as an overview of the diverse construction methods used to fabricate these structures from locally available natural materials. It is written by Bill and Athena Steen, authors of The Strawbale House and includes photographs by Eiko Komatsu. If nothing else, this massive 500 page compilation shows us what may be the last glances at a world which is being developed over by prefab. corrugated and plastic factory made component structures. This book allows us to look beyond the building to embrace what these global people have to teach us so that we may incorporate their wisdom into our man-made environment.