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Home Work:
Handbuilt Shelter

Introduction

Table of Contents

Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter

BUILDERS: The Yurts of Bill Coperthwaite

The image below is a two-page spread (pages 28-29) from Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter. Click on any of the photos on the image to see a larger popup window of that photo (close popup window before clicking another photo). Page text is included below the spread.

The yurt shown in the three photos on this page is Bill’s home in the Maine woods. It is 54' (eaves) in diameter and was designed so it could be built over a period of several years and still provide shelter during the process. It is a tri-centric, or three-ring yurt with 2700 sq. ft. of floor space. You can first build the 16' inner core as a room to move into. In the second stage, you can build the large sheltering roof over a gravel pad, allowing the major cost, floor construction, to be delayed. In the meantime you have a spacious area under roof that can be used for a workshop, greenhouse, garage, or for play. 33' freespan yurt at The Mountain Institute, Cherry Grove, West Virginia, 1991
Guest yurt at The Yurt Foundation, Dickinsons Reach, Maine, 1966
Helen Nearing’s yurt at Harborside, Maine, 1990
Concentric yurt on Mother Earth News land in North Carolina, 1979
First 54' tricentric yurt, at The Mountain Institute, Cherry Grove, W.V., 1976
Traditional yurt (gher) structure and cover.
Inside a Travel Study Community School yurt in Franklin, N.H., 1968
The yurt shown in the three photos on this page is Bill’s home in the Maine woods. It is 54' (eaves) in diameter and was designed so it could be built over a period of several years and still provide shelter during the process. It is a tri-centric, or three-ring yurt with 2700 sq. ft. of floor space. You can first build the 16' inner core as a room to move into. In the second stage, you can build the large sheltering roof over a gravel pad, allowing the major cost, floor construction, to be delayed. In the meantime you have a spacious area under roof that can be used for a workshop, greenhouse, garage, or for play. The yurt shown in the three photos on this page is Bill’s home in the Maine woods. It is 54' (eaves) in diameter and was designed so it could be built over a period of several years and still provide shelter during the process. It is a tri-centric, or three-ring yurt with 2700 sq. ft. of floor space. You can first build the 16' inner core as a room to move into. In the second stage, you can build the large sheltering roof over a gravel pad, allowing the major cost, floor construction, to be delayed. In the meantime you have a spacious area under roof that can be used for a workshop, greenhouse, garage, or for play.
Tying a line  to a plastic or canvas tarp wrapped aound a small ball (or pinecone)

More Sample Chapters:

Louie Frazier
The Inspiration for Home Work

Natural Buildings
Photography by
Catherine Wanek

Bill & Athena Steen
Cob Houses of Mud & Straw

Michael Kahn
Sculptural Village in the Arizona Desert

Mongolian Cloud Houses
How to make a Yurt & Live Comfortably

Page 28 Text: Bill Coperthwaite doesn’t have email, doesn’t have a phone, and lives in the Maine woods a few miles from the nearest roads. When I visited him in the ’70s I walked in a mile or so through the woods. You can also get there by canoe down the coast. My son Peter was with me and we spent a few days there, taking canoe trips in the inlets, and hanging out with Bill and his apprentices. Bill has a Ph.D. in education from Harvard, worked for two years in Mexico with the American Friends Service Committee, designed a traveling museum of Eskimo culture, and has lectured all over the world.

In 1962, while reading a National Geographic article, Bill recognized the folk genius in the design of the traditional Mongolian yurt. He found in the yurt both a rich potential for creative design and an opportunity for developing a simple dwelling that people could build themselves. Bill designed the tapered-wall wooden yurt to enable people to play a larger role in creating their own shelter, using a design that reduces required building skills to a minimum while still producing a beautiful, inexpensive and permanent shelter.

These days Bill conducts workshops, sells yurt plans, designs and consults on yurt projects, and continues his search for ways to simplify life in the 21st century. Chelsea Green has just published Bill’s A Handmade Life — In Search of Simplicity. To contact Bill, and for web information on his Yurt Foundation, see the next page.

Page 29 Text: The standard yurt can be built at 17' (eaves) diameter (and also at 12' and 10'). This is the simplest to build, makes a great cabin for one, or seminar space for 15 people, and can be used as a summer camp or mountain retreat. A circular skylight spreads illumination evenly, and a ring of soft peripheral light enters though the windows under the eaves. People have used these as saunas, guest rooms, and as offices with curving desks.

The concentric yurt is 38' (eaves) diameter and is really one yurt inside another. The inner yurt supports the roof of the outer one and reduces materials costs. This concentric way of dividing a circle creates a unique free-flowing space in the outer ring and a secluded feeling in the inner loft yurt. Since the inner yurt is raised a full story, it provides a room underneath that can be used as a bathroom, storage room, pantry, or living room. These yurts have been used all over America as permanent homes, summer homes, and common rooms in communities. It has 1000 sq. ft. of floor space.

Plans for the 3 basic yurts shown on these pages are
$25, $50, and $75.

contact:
The Yurt Foundation
Dickinsons Reach
Machiasport, ME 04655

Read an excellent interview with Bill Coperthwaite.