portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting portland metro

neighborhood news | sustainability

VBC 5: Cob benches sprouting up along SE Tibbetts

Biking around after some gardening this afternoon I was riding down SE Tibbetts and stumbled across three different sets of people working on cob benches, as part of the fifth annual Village Building Convergence (VBC). The VBC seeks to empower people to rebuild their urban spaces so as to encourage community. Past projects have included intersection repairs -- wherein the road is painted and street fixtures such as kiosks, benches, and planters are built -- and the the magnificent cob artwork at People's Food Cooperative. This year is bringing more intersection repairs and a set of presentations and events where people can learn more about how to change their city for the positive. The event has been growing each year and attracts people from around the country.
this year's VBC poster
this year's VBC poster
site 3: finishing the stone foundation
site 3: finishing the stone foundation
site 3: bench will formed on the left side
site 3: bench will formed on the left side
site 1: the bench
site 1: the bench
site 1: making cob
site 1: making cob
site 1: making cob
site 1: making cob
site 1: VBC projects welcome people of all ages
site 1: VBC projects welcome people of all ages
site 2: cob bench with roof
site 2: cob bench with roof
site 2: big piles of sand and clay marked this site
site 2: big piles of sand and clay marked this site
site 2: making a little dance of the cob-mixing
site 2: making a little dance of the cob-mixing
site 2: this site's designer shows a volunteer how far up to build the cob
site 2: this site's designer shows a volunteer how far up to build the cob
site 2: shaping and smoothing
site 2: shaping and smoothing
site 2: smoothing and shaping
site 2: smoothing and shaping
Natural Building is a huge part of the VBC, and often involves "cob", which is a mixture of clay, sand, and straw. It can be formed into a multitude of whimsical shapes and when finished correctly and treated right, can last for years and years and years.

I snapped these pics of the sites on Tibbetts so other folks could see how fun cob work is. Go find the site nearest you and get muddy yourself!

 http://vbc.cityrepair.org/vbc5/

---

The three sites featured here:

1. SE Tibbetts at 23rd Ave. Cob Bench.

2. SE Tibbetts at 22nd Ave. Cob Bench with roof.

3. SE 22nd between Tibbetts & Powell. Cob Bench in front, with walkway leading to steps (and up to door) behind it.

i love VBC 22.May.2005 22:03

portlander

if this is what being a "dirty hippie" is about, then sign me up! ;)

i helped out with the cob structure at new day school at last year's VBC and it was great. it's awesome to walk by it and think of all the people that helped make it such a beautiful thing.

Nice but... 23.May.2005 09:51

Cmde Nona

They're nice, it's cool folks turn out to make them but have you ever seen anybody USE them? Or gather in the redesigned intersections? I haven't.

Nope 23.May.2005 18:58

I have not

and don't really expect to. When the weather's nice who in their right mind would want to be on the street with cars buzzing by instead of in a backyard or on a porch? It's stretch. The idea of having the benches there is worthwhile, but no village atmosphere will materialize unless the automobile culture shifts.

i've noticed positive effects... 23.May.2005 21:48

villager

...at two intersection repairs. The one on 33rd, a block south of Belmont, with the big sunflower in the middle. i often cross that intersection on my bicycle, north to south, which has stop signs. the other direction doesn't have stop signs. i've noticed that, more often than not, the cars going east-west slow down, as if a stop sign is coming, and i've assumed that's because the street is painted. that slow-down makes it much easier and safer to cross the street there. so that's cool.

the other intersection is the one in Sellwood -- "Share-it Square", i think it's called, at like 8th & Sherrit (sp?), where there's a little house, a community garden, a kiosk, and a couple other things. twice i went through there with a friend from the neighborhood and both times it took us a long time to go through because he kept running into people he knew. i myself ran into a friend there i hadn't seen in a while and we ended up hanging out in the garden for awhile. that intersection is definitely something special; you can feel a certain magic as you approach it. it's also been there for years, so perhaps these things take some time to settle and grow.

Ok, Stupid question- 24.May.2005 00:45

popo

I have a stupid question, but pl,ease dont give me a stupid answer! :)

What is a "Cob Bench" exactly?

I need to get out of the burbs more often! Thanks!

read the article 25.May.2005 09:20

huh

yo popo:

read the article, it explains exactly what cob is and i think you might know what a bench is

weel....let's see 25.May.2005 17:21

gr@ce

Hey now, that's not the nicest answer. Cob is a mixture of sand, clay, grasses, it can vary actually. There are cob houses in Devonshire, England that have been there since the 15th century, I believe. Sos that lets you know it can last awhile. There is a mixture called "Oregon cob", designed to last in Cascadia. This is not a much better answer, but hopefully not as rude. If you want to know more, you could google, "cob building", "cob houses", "appropiate technology" & "oregon cob". It's all pretty rad creative & conscious stuff. And yeah, you probably know what a bench is.

Thanks Gr@ce! 27.May.2005 04:35

popo

Thanks...I just wasnt quite sure what it was all about...but I understand now, acually a pretty cool idea!