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10 May 11

Guadix and Cannabric

In the search for local eco materials we were pointed in the direction of Monica Brümmer, a German architect who is doing fantastic work with hemp. She has created a brick from hemp and hydrated lime which has excellent insulative qualities and is strong enough to build whole houses. She also uses lime in it's many forms as a finish to walls, floors and water tanks. We simply had to pay her a visit.

So, on a Tuesday morning we set out bright and early (well, early for us) and drove to Guadix for an appointment with her. Guadix is famous in this area for it's cave houses and incredible rock formations. Well worth a visit in itself. But no time for sightseeing. So we headed straight for Monica's cave house complex in the Barrio region of Guadix. When I say we headed straight there, what I mean is we drove round and round Guadix, stopping every time we saw an unsuspecting pedestrian to ask for directions. The directions Monica gave us didn't work because a whole street had been shut down for building work. Anyway, eventually we got there only 1/2 an hour late.

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Monica very kindly spent ages with us going through all her products and showing us her fabulously renovated cave houses. All using natural materials which gave the spaces a very welcoming and gentle feel even with modern appliances added.

Here are some images of the cave house she has recently worked on. Apparently there was an unheard of amount of rain in 2008 in Guadix which caused many cave houses to suffer. The roof of two rooms in one of Monica's caved in (no pun intended). But, true to form and with masterly vision she created a stunning entrance come terrace out of the new open spaces and went on to repair the caves inside. Above shows the entrance area with it's beautifully curving roof surround. Below shows the inside spaces with limed walls and floors.


Even the shower back has a waterproofed lime finish.


This shows the cannabrics in action. They have a lovely oldie worldie finish to them, although I think they need covering to make them totally weatherproof. Clive, a friend who joined us for the visit, was very taken with this structure, we could see his head whirling with ideas of building a traditional Andalucian windmill out of them. Go Clive!

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And here's a detail of the wall. The mortar is a lime based mix too.


We came away with heads buzzing from all the info Monica had shared with us and a box of natural pigments, a can of finishing oil, a bucket of lime paste and various bags of marble dust and yessos. Experimentation here I come!

I wish I'd happened across Monica all those years ago when I was looking for a way to repair and protect the floor tiles in the living room of our current house. They're very old hyrdraulic tiles made from a lime cement with a thin layer of coloured 'stuff'. I think this coloured stuff is the same as, or at least very similar to, the mix Monica uses for her floors. Luckily, or unfortunately, however you want to look at it, there are still some tiles to repair so I'm going to give it a try.

You can find out more info at

Windmills at Baza

On the way home we did a slight diversion to visit a windmill factory near Baza. When I say a factory, it's a dad and two sons operation who import and install a Canadian manufactured wind turbine plus they build a more traditional style windmill to pump water out of wells. Here's the water windmill - it was quite breezy and the water was being pumped very fast considering it was coming up from 50 metres (although it can do it from 90).