Working with your hands and with natural materials is another great way to reconnect with nature. Being in the outdoors and often working together with others to create something which feels good to your body and which is beautiful to look at.
At A Quinta we are fortunate to have many different building materials available. We have a thick layer of clay, a small eucalyptus forest for wood, locally grown bamboo grasses known as Canas and many slate stones in the earth. Plenty of materials to make something very pretty.
TAIPA - rammed earth & Cob building
Traditionally the houses in the Alentejo region are made with TAIPA, Rammed Earth construction methods. The foundation made with slate stones up to around half a meter in height and continued with rammed earth walls. With a mix of clay, sand and stones and any other wasteful material the around 30cm thick walls are build up layer by layer and last for ever if the rain doesn't get to it. But you find plenty of old ruins with roofs which have collapsed a long time ago and the walls still standing strong.
We cover our rammed earth walls with a cob mix, which is ideal for plastering and creating delightful art work. Cob differs per region and the mix has to be created accordingly by doing tests. Our mixture works best with 50% cob and 50% sand.
The beautiful thing of working with cob is that anyone can do it. From children, who love playing with mud anyway, to their grandparents. You can bring a community together and creating something unique. Made by all.
We have experimented with different ecological building methods at A Quinta. the shade area is covered by a reciprocal eucalyptus roof.
A reciprocal roof is a self-supporting structure made of three or more beams and which requires no centre support. The roof is assembled by first installing a temporary central support that holds the first rafter at the correct height. The first rafter is fitted between the wall and the temporary central support and then further rafters are added, each resting on the last. The final rafter fits on top of the previous rafter and under the very first one. The rafters are then tied with wire before the temporary support is removed.
Finally removing the central support is a very heart wrenching moment, as the failure of a single element may lead to the failure of the whole structure.
The treehouse is another pride and joy of A Quinta. It is a fairly large structure consisting of a main living area, a separate bedroom and two balconies. The whole structure is built without harming the tree in any way. No nails or screws have been used to fix the structure to the tree, allowing the tree freedom and continued growth.