In promoting resettlement, the Foundation has relied mostly on commercial construction methods and materials. At the same time, we have implemented small pilot projects in Kashatagh, involving natural building techniques – mostly notably cob construction, which creates dwellings and other structures out of natural materials (e.g. clay, sand, straw).
The motivation behind this was three-fold:
First, with rising construction costs and the falling dollar, the Foundation sought cheaper, simpler methods of construction.
Secondly, cob construction does not alienate people from their environment. Rather, it emphasizes people’s bonds to their climate, topography, and surroundings. Through careful planning, cob construction can integrate lived space and thus promote a bond between resettlers and the liberated territories they inhabit.
Finally, cob construction, while requiring some skill and experience, is not a forbidding or exclusionary method. Indeed, many cob dwellings can be built with significant input from the inhabitants themselves.
In 2006, the Foundation sponsored a natural building workshop in Kashatagh. The workshop featured master-builders from the US-based School for Natural Building, and involved participants from local villages. Using an entirely local labor-force, within 3 weeks the group built a small caretaker-cottage on a small hill overlooking the vineyards of Aygehovit village. Today, the cottage is used as a watch-tower, and serves as a model for future projects.
In 2007, the Foundation sponsored a second workshop in Kashatagh, this time focusing on plastering and home-repair. With many Kashatagh villagers still living in bombed-out ruins, this workshop aroused considerable interest in Aygehovit village and surrounding areas. The workshop completed wall, ceiling, and floor renovations in one dwelling, again using local labor including the inhabitants themselves.
The Foundation later expanded the program, renovating dozens of homes with local brigades. Eventually, our home repair model was taken on by the NKR authorities, who expanded the scale of work to encompass other districts in Kashatagh.