Our campus in West Texas is located in a beautiful section of the Chihuahuan Desert 10 miles from the boundary of Big Bend National Park and just over an hour from the arts hub of Marfa, TX.
We are taking a break from hosting formal programs while we upgrade our facilities and infrastructure. We are still accepting visitors and volunteers as circumstances allow and would love to hear from you.
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Earth Block Production
We are investing in equipment and facilities to manufacture environmentally sound construction materials locally in the Big Bend. The most significant of these is compressed earth block (CEB) which combines the environmental, comfort, and health benefits of earthen construction with the efficiency of modern manufacturing. Compressed earth block walls are fireproof, bug-proof, sound-proof, and bullet-proof. They mitigate extreme changes in heat and humidity, creating a comfortable indoor environment, and earth blocks are healthy for the environment as a whole. They utilize readily available, local materials, require very little energy or water to manufacture, generate no harmful waste, last for centuries, and create buildings which are energy-efficient to operate.
We are fortunate to be partnering with Jim Hallock, a master builder who for decades has advanced the use of earth block through research, advocacy, and the construction of projects around the world. With Jim’s guidance we will begin manufacturing blocks and hosting workshops starting this fall. CEBs will be utilized to build our facilities and will be made available for sale locally. Winter and spring 2022 SCA onboarded several community members as part of a pre-purchase plan, receiving discounted earth blocks and support for their own projects while helping secure funding for this new technology. The machine will be sited at our second property on the Terlingua Ranch to be used as a production plant.
The student volunteer program is at the core of SCA’s plan to teach through building and build through teaching. Student volunteers learn a range of skills while working on building facilities for future student volunteers to use. In addition to building projects, recent student volunteers helped organize community events, taught arts workshops, and participated in field trips to Ojinaga, The Chinati Foundation, The McDonald Observatory, and Big Bend National Park. Living communally, working with each other, and with the local community, volunteers will learn practical skills and develop their leadership and teamwork abilities. This lived training is augmented by educational programs that connect the work to concepts of ecology, construction, and holistic design. By instilling these values and equipping young people with practical skills and experience, SCA aims to send resident volunteers back to their communities motivated and empowered to enact positive change and more fully realize their own potentials.
SCA will host classes for specific construction techniques for community members, tradespeople, and individuals interested in building their own homes. Expert craftspeople will be brought in to teach programs centering on the collaborative construction of a building or building component. By training people in a range of environmentally suitable techniques, SCA aims to expand the variety of available construction methods, improve the quality and sustainability of building practices, and empower people to construct quality homes for themselves using available materials.
Hugo Ramos teaching adobe brick making
Design | Build
The School of Constructive Arts plans to host residential design-build courses in partnership with existing college and university architecture programs at our campus in West Texas. These classes will create opportunities for future architects to experience the challenges and rewards of manifesting their ideas with their own hands. Students will live on site while participating in lectures, environmental education, and the design build project. Living simply in close contact with nature is an integral part of the educational experience. Eventually semester length courses will be offered to smaller groups of architecture students. This longer time frame will allow for advanced students to develop individual research projects. Students will return to their programs with first hand experience of construction, ecologically integrated design, and life in close contact with the desert environment, experiences that will hopefully impact their studies and eventually their practice.
Activity Based Curriculum
In collaboration with local public schools, the School of Constructive Arts will develop a curriculum to teach natural science and introduce self reliance through hands-on activities outside of the classroom. Examples include:
- Students plant a garden and study the life cycle of plants and the biochemical processes involved. Once produce is harvested, students will be taught the basics of food preparation and nutrition, learning to cook healthy meals from produce that they helped to cultivate.
- Students construct camp stoves from recycled cans, practicing craft and manual skills while learning about combustion and the carbon cycle.
- Students learn to construct various sundials and are taught the mechanism of the seasons, solar orientation, navigation, and time.
- Students learn geometry and trigonometry by drawing on the ground and measuring elements in the field.
Through input from teachers and students, SCA will refine its curriculum to be published and serve as a model for schools in other areas.