By Henrique and Magda
Earthship – First Impressions
Earthship is a type of house that combines natural and recycled materials, created to function in the most independent way, applying the principles of living off-the-grid. The energy comes from natural resources, therefore minimizing the use of fossil fuels. The concept has been developed since the 1970s by the architect Michael Reynolds in the desert of New Mexico, so it’s seems hard to believe that the same concept is being applied in Andel, in the heart of Prague!
Zeměnka is another act of rebellion against the system, and it’s not so easy to locate. To get there it’s necessary to reach the end of a street, then pass a gate and walk through a winding path surrounded by trees and flowers as soon we realize that we are in a very exclusive place.
We – Henrique Gonçalves and Magdalena Rauch – volunteers from International Young Naturefriends decided to see the whole project in the flesh and give an account of our stay there.
“For me it was one of the most special moments since I started my EVS in Prague. I have studied architecture and for a long time that I have been interested in resilient architecture, alternative ways of designing buildings and inhabiting them. Several thoughts were crossing my mind, I had so many questions that I wanted to be answered, combined with expectations and enthusiasm!” – Henrique
“When I came across the idea of building ecological house with renewable materials I was suspicious about how it will be functioning as a whole I also had many questions such as: How long will the process of building last? Will it be stable? How many tires, cans, glass bottles will they need? With this attitude full of concerns and curiosity I came to Zeměnka” – Magda
At first sight it’s not so simple to figure out what is happening in that place. A pile of cans and plastic bottles lies at one side, presumably to be used for building the walls; right before there is a tent that works like an improvised office and kitchen, and finally in the center there is a large plastic foil hiding underneath a wall of tires, clay and straw. Then the cover was removed showing all the hard work that has been done for the last months.
Behind the construction and up on the hill there are some fruit trees and plants indicating that growing food is also a goal here. In the upper part it’s possible to seat and embrace the great view of the other side of Prague, although the first thing visible is a big block of modern apartments that staring in front, creating a strange contrast.
Artists vs. Government
Martin Pruska, one of the coordinators of this project, and the person responsible for the guided tours, explains that those neighbors were very intrigued after seeing a big amount of tires being dropped on the hill, as they thought someone was turning the place into a landfill. When they realized what was really happening, they still weren’t happy about it, and as consequence a legal action was sent to stop the construction, but with no success so far. Pruska highlights a large group of personalities, artists, musicians, actors and writers that have shown interested in the project. This support is very important to keep the work going on, and of course there are several volunteers that have been working hard, focused on finishing the walls and constructing on the roof. There is no concrete deadline, the work will continue while the weather allows.
You need 1500 tires
In pursuing the dream of environmentally friendly home, Martin Pruska and the rest of his team collide with problems with regulations of the Czech law building and getting permission for keeping building of the Earthship. Nevertheless, they are still strongly motivated because they see a lot of advantages of this idea. Earthship is a self-sufficient, independent of the connection to the media building, able to maintain a moderate temperature inside, regardless of the climate. The main building block of the walls is a combination of soil, sand, straw and water which are put into spaces between used car tires. On average, to build this type of a house you need 1500 tires. The result is a high, solid wall, which is able to withstand all manner of disasters, including an earthquake. Moreover, a building fully utilizes the energy from the sun, warming the house. Energy-efficient way to build such houses and use renewable materials not only contribute to significant reductions in their maintenance, but also have a positive impact on the local environment.
Because the process of the building is still ongoing, everyone can join to the workgroup and no previous experience is required, only determination to work hard but without any pressure, as a good sense of kindness and companionship is present in the group. For the ones who don’t want to get dirty, there is also a possibility to just visit Zeměloď and get a good insight of the whole project.
“After a general talk to Pruska and other volunteers, I decided it was time to put the camera aside and grab the sledge hammer and mash the earth inside the tire make it as stable as possible. Then I realized how remarkable it was to pile up all those tires so far, while the tiredness was taking over just few minutes after I have started.”