House No. 37: Earth Berm
ink, colored pencil, and watercolor on paper, digital layout
8.5 in. x 11 in.
"In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a Hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party"
While its most recognizable form is probably the hobbit holes of Tolkien's Middle Earth, earth dwellings, called berms (meaning a mound or wall of earth or sand), have been used around the world for millennia. Earth dwellings are now associated with the green building movement.
Sometimes the earth is "bermed" about an existing dwelling, and sometimes they are dug out of an existing slope or dug and the earth is rebuilt over a structure. They are warm in the winter and cool in the summer, are stable and fireproof, and are largely organic and/or upcycled. If we ever go off the grid — which is not likely, but I fantasize about it sometimes — I want to live in an earth berm. My husband, however, says that it seems rather dirty and that he is not a groundhog.