Built By Hand Book: Traditional Natural Building Designs Around The World

Imagine houses with six feet-thick seaweed roofs, deep-nestled and hand-carved cave homes, and pigeon-harboring huts made of mud. Sounds a little unreal, huh? Well, this and more is all vividly documented in Built By Hand: Vernacular Buildings Around the World, a most inspiring bit of natural building eye candy I recently had the fortune of stumbling upon. Built by Hand is a hardcover collection of photographs of traditional buildings of all styles across the globe.

If you weren’t already appalled by the house design atrocity known as the McMansion, Built By Hand will make you pine ever harder for more intimate, natural, sensible, and green home designs that can be found all over the world, still being built by indigenous peoples and sometimes mimicked by enterprising, modern day natural home builders.

Broken up mostly into chapters devoted to different building elements, including earth, stone, wood, and thatch, Yoshio Komatsu’s collection of photographs is pleasing to navigate and is definitely aimed at visually stimulating the reader. Each chapter includes a short introduction, with some extra brief text interspersed midway describing each element and its building and/or cultural significance. Additionally, each gorgeous photo is clearly captioned with a location and brief description. 

Let’s be clear. This book is mostly about Komatsu’s photos. Although the text does provide some helpful background information, don’t expect an explanation on how to thatch your own roof, for example. The photos speak for themselves and provide much in the way of enlightenment. The variety of content is impressive, too, with everything from adobe homes in the American southwest to house boats on the Niger River in Mali on display here.

Built By Hand will put your imagination to the test when you consider the ingenuity of traditional peoples and their adaption of incredibly basic building elements to craft truly exquisite homes and structures. Can hyper-civilized society, with its seemingly endless concrete, shiny steel, and artificial-infested houses and buildings learn something from the vernacular building still practiced?

Maybe not, but this book sure does prove that there still exists smart and beautiful homes worthy of our attention and admiration.

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