A tiny house, a place to live, a gift from Pachamama


This tiny home is near Capilla del Monte, a small city in Cordoba, Argentina. It was built one summer with occasional help from friends by Jan, Andrea (and their baby Lola). The stem walls are made from dry stone collected from the land, or as Andrea would say from Pachamama (Mother Earth). The frame of the house is made from flexible branches of the pepper tree [known as the Aguaribay in Argentina] all bound together with string.


When you build in this way the walls are loose and flimsy during construction. This allows you to adapt the shape of the building to your needs as it takes form and you start to understand the space you are creating. This way of building is referred to by Alexander in Pattern No.208, 'Gradual Stiffening'.

Jan and Andrea fixed bottles and sheets of broken glass with string to the frame of branches, later stiffening the frame with cob, a mixture of clay, sand and straw. To protect the exterior from rain and moisture the cob was plastered with one part slaked lime to three parts sand. The walls were then painted (left) with cactus starch (right) mixed with slaked lime and iron oxide pigment. The areas of the house where water might collect, like the horizontal parts of the roof, were protected with melted beeswax.

Jan and Andrea's home is a similar design to Benji's tiny house in France which is made from branches, clay, lime and old woollen jumpers.


For those who built this tiny home, and the few lucky enough to visit, it touched something deep inside their psyche satisfying their psychological need for shelter. It's part of Alexander's pattern language No.117, 'Sheltering Roof'. The roof shelters, embraces, covers and surrounds the process of living. A dome home like this achieves that sense of shelter because the roof actually is the living space. However the roof and walls in a dome are the same structure, but they have to perform very different functions. Apart from the psychological need for shelter the roof must also perform the physical task of protecting the house from rain. A dome home is particularly vulnerable to rain, especially a naturally built one. Jan and Andrea used beeswax to protect their home, but that is a short term solution or one that needs constant and regular maintenance. Sadly this tiny house did not survive the Argentinean rains. Dome homes are really only suitable for arid and semi-arid climates where rainfall is minimal.