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Strawbale Wall at the Boom Festival

Welcome everyone, to Boom!
It's an art-based psytrance music festival located in the desert of eastern Portugal. It happens every other year and they are really making an effort to have all of the structures as natural and earth-conscious as we can make it.

I'm here to play with bamboo as much as possible and build a strawbale wall around a movie screen/workshop area that needed some added sound isolation. I didn't know exactly what I was getting in to when I arrived, but it turned out great, and there's a lot of photos here to give you a glimpse at my adventure. I brought along dear friends, Sebastian, Julia and Fezzo to help make it happen. Dozens of other bamboo builders and volunteers from around the world learn to get in the mud and see what we can do with all this clay, sand and straw.

we start with an outline of the wall created by some locally grown bamboo poles

I decide to use the bamboo framework as external pinning and stack the bales into columns between them

extensive staking with hand carved bamboo splits help toe nail each bale to the next. Thanks to Danny Pando for making all those beautiful stakes and doing it fast enough to keep up with the flow.

I make a really fancy tying system to hold the external framework together but only reveal a beautiful simple lash once plastered.

My fearless friends, Sebastian and Ilima, help me get the bales up to 14 courses high! Lots of hammering and balancing involved on this one. We also spend a few days shaving the corners of the bales and shaping the form as much as possible.

Then comes the mud

The first coat over the bales is a basic clay slip

Our head honcho and bamboo guru, Gerard, gets into it!

working all together we cover 300 bales in about 2 days!

Then, we start a finish plaster mix in two huge pits lined with old billboard material

and yes, the most fun and efficient way to mix, is to just dive right in!

besides, getting coated in mud helps protect us from the scorching sun!

diving the edges up to the bamboo provides a nice place for a cold joint and gives each volunteer a sense of accomplishment, one section at a time.

plus the juxtaposition of mud and bamboo is so beautiful!

already a great place for our snack and juice break, i will never forget those white cheese sandwiches!

we keep plastering

even through the night

Julia works on a sculptural bench

it turns out just lovely

check out the site-found crystal that we integrate into it!

on the back side of the wall, we build shelves for the 'marketplace'

i create a nest to hide the joint between the edging branches

meanwhile, I help make this special component that will support the fanning shade sails

and a shade structure starts to go up around the theater area

we spend an entire night spreading out ten dump truck loads of sand throughout the arena

in use!

After the festival, we take down the sails, but get to leave the wall standing. It's going to be used as a drive in movie theather for the local community.

long distance aerial shot from my campsite

hard work pays off!

photo credits: Julia Bonneheim & Erica Ann

the Regi

This little structure was a great synthesis of bamboo and mud

I create a canya wattle with bamboo splits for bracing

Then, pile up some strawbales and large rocks for seating

starting to mud over the canya wattle with a 'heavy clay-straw' mix

my crew are experts by now

two walls bamboo panels and two walls earthen benches

inside is the main DJ and control booth for the two stages in the Drop

a great spot to rest and neat to see it endure some heavy use during the festival

the Drop at Boom

the Lake Idanha Nova
and future site of the Drop

Cleaning the bamboo splits and sorting into different grades of looseness

Let the weaving begin!

"yip, yip.... back, back"
it's the special language of large scale bamboo wall weaving

the ends come together in curving organic forms

the tall end of the wall gradually spreads and will frame the acrobatic stage

the tails become garden spaces

one-of-a-kind wall!

these columns will support the screen on the opposite side of the structure

making woven panels

installing the panels into meter deep trenches in the ground

intentionally bending them over

the two walls are brought together to form a tunnel

then we go around the length of the tube (about 500') attaching the two sides together with bamboo rafters and lashings, not a single nail was used

we continue working through the night

the 'roof' is made with lycra fabric stretched and tied down where ever possible

such an amazing space for a gallery!

even the sheep dig it

the Dance Temple at Boom

Columns made from bundles of seven

swaging cables for this tensile structure

before and after

there are several hundred to complete

the members go up

the fabric sails go on

the colors are arranged as a beautiful flower mandala filled with sacred geometries

time to dance!

Other Great Projects at Boom

A wonderful community kitchen.
It's a cob oven and rocket stove style grills all in one!

Plaster texture detail on the oven

A bamboo framed dream catcher portal to the Drop

A ferrocement greywater reclaimation system with live plants for on-site water treatment

A beautiful mosaic dragon, in process

rotating driftwood sculpture

Canya is an amazing sculptural framing material

Essentially, sugar cane stalks, that grow rampant all along the northern mediterrean coast. Bundled in groups of 30 or so, spliced to any desired length and then built up like a basket.

Truly inspiring to me!

bioconstruction & beyond