In the fall of 2011, Hugh Crawford, Associate Professor in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture, taught Environmentalism and Ecocriticism to a class of upper-level Building Construction majors. Among the many readings for the class were three texts by nature writers who built small houses and wrote about their lives there: Henry David Thoreau, Henry Beston, and Bernd Heinrich. As it turns out, each house was built using a different technique: timber frame, dimensional lumber, and log. After some discussion, the class took on The Playhouse Project.
The class was divided into three teams, each researching one of the author's life and writing, the writing of that period in American Literature, along with the history and cultural implications of each building technique. In addition, they designed and built children's playhouses in that particular style. The students sourced material from a range of venues, worked out labor schedules, developed safety criteria, solicited site plan approval, and constructed playhouses which will eventually be given to charity.
The students presented their work during exam week in an opening reception that included the houses, slideshows about the design and construction process, various representations of their research including magazines, posters, cider, and clam chowder. The log structure, representing the research on Bernd Heinrich will be moved into the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons in February in anticipation of his lecture on March 7.