Using “white pine from the shores of Walden Pond and lumber salvaged from an old shack” Henry David Thoreau built a 10- by 15-foot cabin by the shores of Walden Pond. But Thoreau didn’t have to deal with the building codes, writes Michael Smith, a history and environmental studies professor at Ithaca College, on Inside Higher Ed.
Ithaca’s first-year students are reading Walden. The environmental studies department decided to build a model of Thoreau’s cabin, letting students, as the writer put it, “not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end.”
Students, faculty, alumni, and community members who learned about the project all expressed a desire, even a craving, to become involved, to be able to build with their own hands. Their answer to Thoreau’s question, “Shall we ever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter?” was loud and clear.
And so sketches were made. A crew of students and faculty spent a day and a half pulling hemlock boards and timbers from a collapsed 120-year-old barn. The campus site for the build was selected. We sent the hand-drawn sketches to an architect friend to be rendered as computer-designed drawings.
Then the town bureaucrats demanded that the cabin conform to the building codes, which require a sprinkler system. The project stopped, waiting for a permit that may be issued in the spring. Or never. I suppose it’s educational.