Ecological-Studios:

First steps in a users primer for reconstructing the recording studio's around green design and architectural practice

IV and V - the Sawmills watermill studio in Cornwall and the rudiments to an eco-studio self-build primer


IV - So for the small scale music person without the rich man's resources of Peter Gabriel's Real World Complex - to begin with bringing in Fielden Clegg as architects is a sign of money - do-it-yourself ecologically sustainable studio's, or many of the steps towards, is surely a possibility.

Slightly askance to these small scale suggestions and serving as an example of what the midsized studio could investigate is the Sawmills studio sitting on a tributory of the river Fowey, in south Cornwall. It appears to be unique, because you can't get to it except by foot or water. The dream of its founder, Tony Cox, who wanted to make music in a beautiful, spirited location, most thought him nuts, and that it would never work. It did, however, and it's been a success, according to a Studio Engineer there, Dillon. Bands and musicians like it because of its 'isolationist' character; you're seperated off from the rest of the world, far from civilisation or at least the nearest Cornish A-road. It's also reputedly very beautiful and a good place to record because of that.

The studio is in a two hundred year Mill, situated next to several other wooden buildings. Across the river is a half-wall with a sluice-gate which not so long ago, apparently, included an operative water wheel. Dillon the Engineer couldn't see it being economical for this to be re-initiated as the time generated by this tidal resource was quite small. Turbines were also too expensive and wouldn't pay for themselves. This seemed a pity, because such a studio building could demonstrate how a part (at least) of its energy needs could be met by natural power. This could be supplemented by the grid, or the mooted windmills maybe planned for the higher level local land near by. This latter is another option, of course, - locate the studio in a neighbourhood which receives its energy off of the grid, from a wind farm or some other natural source.

Again the example only goes a certain degree to meeting the idea of an ecological studio. However it broadens the landscape of the possible, and how to imagine the future evolution of the studio and studio design.

V - That said, most people live in towns and many musicing people are urban creatures. Many build their own studio's these days, within parts of their houses, or flats. If they're into the green ethos the above notes apply here as anywhere. Various methods could be taken from self-building for instance. 'Architype', a green South London Architectural practise, suggested 'timber framing' because it is a sustainable resource and it's user-friendly - it's much easier to handle, and doesn't need the expertise and experience of other materials. Self-building recording studio's using timber seemed eminently sensible to the man at Architype, Tim Crosky, although he wasn't altogether certain it is a completely sound material, because timber building may not be acoustically viable. Crosky saw the use of solar power on the roof, as entirely possible, maybe photo-voltaic cells, so that the studio could be taken off the grid, which was the problem at Box although he realised that at the level of the market Peter Gabriel is working in the thorough-going-ness of the acoustic sound would be all, and the effects of the solar power could well tamper with the sound.

On a smaller scale timber-framed self-build recording studio's seemed to him entirely feasible. Although the sound wouldn't be qualitatively as good, a compromise about the sound quality may need to be reached. There are also products such as wall insulation - made of recycled newspaper to deaden walls which are available. And if timber framing proves a difficult material another vernacular style to investigate could be Robert and Brenda Vale's Masonry house which recycles water in the basement, and uses photovoltaic cells on the roof as the energy source whilst providing an example of ecologically sustainable brickwork which works. (see Robert and Brenda Vale
Many elements in sustainable building are developing in leaps and bounds and there are a wide variety of examples and sources to link into, if you are thinking of getting involved in building a small-acale eco-studio. In the links pages we provide a number of sources which will lead onto practical assistance

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