ARK in Berea

The historic ARK in Berea is the first structure in the state of Ohio to incorporate sustainable building concepts from the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Hand built in 1994 as a work of art by environmental artists David and Renate Jakupca. It is a design study for future buildings and for the global headquarters of the International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA) and Cleveland’s Eco Village. A hybrid structure utilizing cob, straw bales, aluminum cans, used tires, and recycled construction materials, the ARK stands for -Architektur Recycled Kulturstall. It helps to address the environmental problems through ICEAlity of large urban areas and the trend of rebuilding rather than remodeling existing structures. The ARK in Berea is used as a museum, community center, and art studio of American Cultural Ambassadors David and Renate Jakupca. It is registered with the Berea Historical Society, Western Reserve Historical Society and the Ohio Historical Society [].

The ARK in Berea is a project of the International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA) and was an extension for the United Nations World Conference on Cities - Habitat II, which was held in Istanbul, Turkey June 3-14, 1996. It is a practical study on original sustainable development building designs and ideas ICEA’s proposed permanent HQ building that anchor the complete Cleveland Eco Village on Whiskey Island near the mouth of the Cuyahoga River in the flats of Cleveland, Ohio. The ARK in Berea as a hybrid structure is composed of four material building techniques now being used on a limited basis worldwide. The key to such a hybrid structure is that it combines a thermal mass technique, such as rammed earth on the east wall, with an isolative system of straw bales and straw clay on the north and south sides, taking advantage of the best qualities of each system as originaly outlined by Robert Gilman and Diane Gilman from Denmark's

New solutions to common problems have begun to evolve from such creative combinations. The key to the ARK in Berea’s natural, yet subtly elegant design, was knowing when and where to incorporate techniques that would result in increased building efficiency, structural innovation and unique artistic effects.

As the ‘Spiritual Father of the Environmental Arts Movement’[] and founder of ICEA, David Jakupca wanted the ARK in Berea to stand out as an artist’s building it was imperative that the ARK in Berea have a distinctive aesthetic appeal while simultaneously actually helping the environment.

Construction on the ARK in Berea started out slow in 1993. Being built partly underground on the side of the valley, all excavating and construction had to be done by hand making the ARK in Berea truly a hand made piece of art, complete with date and signatures of the artists! In the beginning, an unseasonably wet winter contributed to heavy mud slides before retaining walls could be built. Builders found by trial and error some things worked and some did not. The one idea that did work was to build a solid foundation in the front and tunnel backward when time and weather permitted.

The front (west wall) is made of recycled materials. Aluminum cans were cemented on pallets for walls and glass doors became picture windows. Old cedar shingles about to be transported to the dump after a re-roofing job were revitilized as siding.

The ARK in Berea proved that incorporating salvaged, recycled and resourceful materials invites an innovative style that is easier on the environment but adds character from different woods and products not readily available anymore. “In Cleveland, as in most cities, the trend is to rebuild rather than remodel and with all that waste in demolition -- there must be a way we can use that,” David says.

Moving backward from the front wall, the primary building material is Leichtlehm (literally light-loam) which is a German technique of ramming loose straw coated with a clay slip into forms as an infill for timber frame structures. The technique consists of surrounding a from structure with a thick infill of the straw-clay mixture. The frame is usually fully expressed on the interior of the building to take advantage of the beauty of the timber from joinery. A lighter frame of wood is built on the eventual outside face of the building as an anchoring system for the straw-clay walls.

At the back of the ARK in Berea is a 2’ x 6’ ditch or tub to control and collect mud and water run-off. Loose straw and clay slurry are mixed in the tub then allowed to age for up to several days in order for the straw to absorb the extra moisture and thus create a stickier and more easily tamped mixture. For higher insulation values, less clay was used. Slip forms were set up between the framing members, and the straw clay mixture is tamped by hand or foot. During heavy rains the tub was bailed before it overflows inside.

Robert Laporte, timber farmer and straw-clay builder, commonly uses straw-clay stuffed loosely between rafters as insulation, with the clay discouraging pests. He has also used it as an insulting layer underneath earthen floors. Frank Andresen, German expert on straw-clay, has demonstrated a system of straw-clay tiles which can be placed between roof rafters as insulation and as a plastering surface. He has also introduced straw-clay bricks that can be used like light-weight adobes.

The ARK in BEREA solidified Greater Clevelands early 'Green Building' movement while expanding ICEA’s reputation as an avant-garde cultural center for the elite. Drawing the likes of sculptor John Puskas, adventurer poet Daniel Thompson, activists Ione Biggs, and environmentalists John Perera, as well as other members of the international community making ICEA a force for socially responsible activity.

The ICEA has in its library for public use books, videos, manuals, etc. related to green building methods.

See also
Dashboard of Sustainability
World energy resources and consumption
Ecologically sustainable development

Living Planet Index
Sustainable Development Association
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