History / Reference
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What is cob? Cob is a building material composed of clay, sand, and straw. This humble formula often prompts jokes about mud huts or spurs snap judgments that cob structures will dissolve in the first rainstorm. Such understandable misconceptions, however, are immediately put to rest the first time one gets a look at a sophisticated cob work of art that one can sculpt with one’s own hands, live in, and leave to one’s great great grandchildren. Cob is very durable and requires little upkeep. As Daniel Chiras puts it, "It won't burn, bugs won't eat it, and it's dirt cheap." Additionally, it's non-toxic, creates no waste, and requires minimal tools to construct. Thousands of cob houses have weathered rainy England for hundreds of years, and a recent renaissance of cob building centered in Oregon has joyfully explored the modern artistic and architectural possibilities of the material.
All it takes is one look to realize cob building is not about mud huts and primitivity. It is sophisticated technology to break free of the financial trap and general insanity of today’s wasteful McHouses. So, if all it takes is one look, to my mind there have never been enough pictures of cob houses and other cob projects on the Web, so I hope this site will fix the problem. I have shot pictures of several projects, and I hope you will send in pictures of your projects, too, so a wider audience can get inspired to go out and cob!
Since this site began, there has been a steady growth of cob's presence on the Web. If you have not dropped in recently, check out some of the new links on the left side of this page. Some notable contributors to the presence of cob on the Web are Michael Blaha, of I Love Cob, who also hosts a few great slide shows by David Sheen, and there seems to be a great deal of action in Devon, England, where their codes insist upon repairing their numerous antique cob houses with the original material. It seems quite a few cobbers are making a living repairing the historic cob structures of England. One of these crews is the team of Cob in Cornwall. Another new development is the growing amount of cob building videos available since the advent of YouTube. Now, you can see and hear the inspiring voices who started this cob resurgance, and even watch the building process, so please click on the cob videos link and see and hear for yourself. Many more crews are starting up and offering workshops, and they're not all in Oregon anymore. It is very encouraging to see this explosion of cob resources on the Web, and this explosion of cob activity in the world, and something encouraging is very welcome right about now! Please click around and have fun in the virtual mud!
Some recently featured resources:
Owen Morgan's pics of ancient thatched cob at Museum of Welsh Life, Cardiff, Wales.
Project Moonunit, by Michael Blaha, of I Love Cob.
Rob (Robbibaba) Nelson Flickr Photoset: Natural Building Road Trip.
New illustrated book from the Cob in Cornwall folks called Building with Cob.