Straw : beyond a sustainable building block

Parking Approach
Straw Bale Sleepout - Pukekohe

Architecture continues to rely on technical capabilities to approach issues in climate change and sustainability, and while they can have positive real outcomes, the emphasis on the creation of quality spaces can be left to the wayside. This thesis chooses to take another approach; asking how phenomenology can have a greater impact on outcomes for designed spaces that benefit both the health of humans and the natural environment. 

The essence of this approach in terms of sustainability is the movement of natural building, from which the material of baled straw is borrowed and interrogated in relation to poetics and atmospheres.

Eco Print 2
Pigment from Pōhutukawa, Kawakawa and Kahikatea leaves at the Pukekohe site

The implications of this research are a wider appreciation of the relationship between the occupation of space and the impact of materials used in spatial creation on the natural environment. It widens the approach of architectural sustainability and develops a contemporary and highly relevant perspective on the role of natural building in tackling the most pressing issue of our time. Through the analysis of artistic and architectural precedent, the process has focussed on the creation of emotive space in the chosen material, one that gives more than it takes.

Bark Model
Exploring Windows; profile, depth & views
Clay Tests
Material Testing - Clay samples from Pukekohe site

The investigation is split into two areas of inquiry: The Installation, and The Sleepout. The Installation at Auckland’s Artweek is a tectonic inquiry into the creation of a temporary public space considering the nature of straw in its raw baled form. The nature of the material results in a thermal, acoustic and texturally enhanced environment that engages the senses in a unique experience for its urban context.

'Vivacious' - Exploring the Human Characteristics of Straw, as suggested by Gernot Böhme
Administrator House
The Installation on site at Artweek, 2018
Eco Print 1
Pigment from Putaputaweta leaves at the Pukekohe site

Understanding gained from the installation is developed upon in the design of the sleep-out. This considers the phenomenological qualities of the material to enhance architectural atmospheres, in a space that emphasises interiority in the open rural landscape. The exploration includes the typologically unique expression of elements such as the depth of window sills, the building form, and resultant qualities of light within the space. The idea of architectural atmospheres is shared across both typologies but is interrogated in two unique and disparate contexts, relating the material’s adaptability to a range of conditions.

Plan Sections
Plan & section for the Straw Bale Sleepout​