I discovered Louis Le Roy and his master work, the Ecocathedral, on the way to the dentist five years ago.
There was nothing particularly portentous about the day except general tooth anxiety. I was driving across Melbourne from Kew to Malvern and had an hour to kill, and I remembered that some art-friends had told me that there was a great bookshop in High Street Malvern called, unsurprisingly "The Arts Bookshop". It turned out to be a great shop and browsing through the art monographs I saw this tall thin volume called "Culture-Nature-Fusion". It was published in both Dutch and English, and had large photographs of what appeared to be a ruin, with an old bloke building it. Oddly, before I even read the text, I knew what he was doing: he was manipulating nature through the use of culture. I bought the book, went to the dentist and, not long after, started my PhD using Le Roy as one of my case-studies. He, and his projects or rather his idea is now the main focus of my PhD and my research generally. His approach may well save the planet, if we take the idea of sustainability seriously. He is a nice though arrogant man, and he knows how good an idea it is.
The Ecocathedral is located on a former agricultural paddock in Mildam, in the Netherlands. It is in Friesland, in the Northern Netherlands, near the city of Heerenveen(Yes, this is where the famous Frisian cow comes from). He commenced working on the project in 1981, when it was an empty paddock that he purchased. Now it is a seemingly natural (well, it is completely natural) forest with an assortment of seemingly useless stacks of rubble that range from beautifully crafted and architecturally interesting to endless piles of building waste. The whole lot is built by hand with no mechanisation. All the material is recycled, dumped by local demolition contractors. Though it is a project of physical labour, it is also extremely theoretical. Theoretically it is an experiment in time, specificity and novelty. It is about people doing culture and nature doing nature.
To research this project I will be building a new section of the Ecocathedral, commencing over the European summer of 2007 when I will do approximately 3 weeks of construction (when I told Louis I wanted to build a bit of it over three months he said building it was definitely the best way to learn about it, but that he would prefer that I came for three week blocks over multiple seasons, since the project was about time passing). I am being supported by the Time Foundation (or the Stichting Tijn) a local organisation that pursues Louis ideas and will continue his legacy, as well, of course, by the Queensland University of Technology where I work as a Senior Lecturer in Landscape Architecture. This BLOG will introduce the Ecocathedral and document what I do and am thinking over the following 5 weeks, so stay tuned!