Q&A with Jill Hogan, a pioneer of natural building in South Africa

How did you first get involved in natural building? 

Jill Hogan at Cobbit's Cottage.

Jill Hogan at Cobbit’s Cottage.

In the early 90’s my life changed completely and I found my self alone. In wanting to be part of a community, I met Hurta Stuurman and did some work with her on her cob house at Hermanus/Stanford and knew that this is what I wanted to do. It combined my concept of Permaculture with creating an organic home for myself, while allowing me to use my knowledge of earth/clay.

Tell us about your journey.

In the 70’s I worked for a nursery. I had a pot plant business, but was exposed to organic veggie gardening and became more and  more interested. At the same time, I started doing pottery and assisted in teach children with learning disabilities now known as ADHD, and so was exposed to lateral thinking.

In the 80’s I went back to “school” and did a fine arts majoring in ceramics.

In 1992 I was introduced to Permaculture and did the design course with John Wilson from Fambidanzia, at Tlholego in Rustenberg, and I developed a true passion for sustainable development.

Someone was setting up an Eco Village in McGregor and I was drawn to become one of the original developers. But personality clashes among the original six members caused the project to collapse, sending me into McGregor itself where I bought a piece of land in the town. Continue reading

First course of 2016

Poster 04_2016 sml

Owner-builder journey ~ Franz Muhl: Energy flows where attention goes

In this edition of the Owner-builder journey, Franz Muhl writes about a mud brick addition to his Scarborough home.

Franz 1

Five years ago, Peter McIntosh gave me +- 900 sun-baked mud bricks, for an extension to my house. Franz 3With little start up money, a trickle of income, some plans on google sketch up, a pickaxe and, most importantly, plenty of time, I finally started the process a year ago.


At foundation level, with the skills that I had at the time, I used clay-fired bricks and a bitumen coat for damp-proofing. Franz 4In March, I headed off to Berg-en-dal for a crash course with Peter. He traded his skills and knowledge in natural building for mine in brewing beer. To take clay, sand, water and a bit of straw in the right proportions and work it into a material for building, was a big revelation for me. Continue reading

Happy New Year

We’re really looking forward to this year with three courses, awesome collaborations with like-minded organizations and individuals and a handful of new natural owner-builders across southern Africa in the forecast.

We’ll be announcing dates and venues at the end of January so watch this space…

May 2015 bless you with prosperity in heart, happiness and health!

New Year

Winning the AJ Writer’s Award

Don’t underestimate natural buildings… The Great Mosque of Djenne is built entirely out of mud and has been standing for a long time. It forms a part of Djenne heritage, but also daily life as a working mosque. And, when the whole community is part of sustaining and maintaining a mud building in this way, the building also contributes to social cohesion.
This is such an important lesson to remember when doing development work in southern Africa. When you eradicate mud buildings, it’s not just a building that you get rid of, but a social history and a chance for people to contribute to their community.

Arub Saqib

AJ1 IMG_1777

My article on Djenne’s main Mosque has been published in the Architect’s Journal this week and shortlisted for the Writer’s Awards

  • — A Primitive Art

    Primitive. When most of us think ‘African art’, this is the word that springs to mind. African architecture is a subject detached further still from our understanding. An unrecognized art, architecture in Africa is usually observed through flickering documentaries and fading books categorized under anthropology or archaeology; studied in fleeting glimpses under subheadings of politics, colonialism and oil – interests that make mention of buildings only as a backdrop for more pressing concerns circling the continent.

    Yet the architecture of Africa is perhaps richer for the fact that it has remained dormant in our eyes, slipping away from our conscience like a half-remembered dream. Different in every sense of the word, from the materials to the form and construction, this indigenous and localised architecture remains…

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