Touching Earth: Natural Building Workshop in Colorado (Week 2)

Date/Time: Sep 24, 2023 - Sep 30, 2023, all day
Location: Earthville Institute, Colorado

Touching Earth

What: Hands-on training workshop

Topic: Earthen building techniques, including adobe, natural clay plasters, and more

When: September 24-30, 2023

Where: Windhorse Village (approximately 40 minutes west of Durango, Colorado, USA)

Language: English (with translation to and from other languages if required)

Instructors: Daphne Charles and Mark Moore (see below), with additional facilitation by James Simmons and Anya Chang-DePuy

Description: A week-long residential workshop exploring earthen building techniques and our connection to nature. Touching Earth will provide opportunities to learn and practice some of the foundational skills of earthen building and contemplate living in harmony with nature while enjoying a healthy and sustainable lifestyle in a beautiful part of Colorado.

Sustainable, Healthy, Affordable & Beautiful Homes

There’s a reason that earthen building is enjoying a renaissance around the world: it is simply one of the wisest ways to build. The many benefits of earthen buildings and clay plasters include:

  • Sustainability (one of the most eco-friendly ways to build)
  • Human health (no toxic materials, vapor permeability while maintaining insulative qualities)
  • Better thermal properties (balance of insulation and thermal mass)
  • Optimal acoustic properties (good sound insulation and natural acoustic profile)
  • Better fire resistance (compared with many conventional building materials)
  • Affordability (especially when DIY with the support of friends)
  • Natural beauty with a wide range of design flexibility

We can help you achieve these benefits in your own building, with an emphasis on best practices and a context-responsive approach that will support you to get the best results possible for your unique needs.


This one-week workshop will explore some of the basic skills of earthen building, as well as some of the philosophical foundations, key concepts, and best practices.

Hands-on learning projects will include:

  • Applying clay plaster to interior straw bale walls
  • Making a traditional earthen floor (using mud and cow dung)
  • Making traditional adobe bricks (sun-dried blocks made of clay and a bit of straw)
  • Creating optimal mud mixes for all of these applications (plasters, floors, bricks and mortar), including DIY soil testing, harvesting, sieving, pugging (mixing), preparing, and testing the mixes.

Other possible hands-on projects if there is interest and time after completing the main work:

  • Exploring the basics of earthen masonry — how to build an adobe wall — including best practices, bond patterns, etc.
  • Possible work on other projects

The hands-on work will be enriched by discussions, presentations, and other activities to provide greater depth and breadth of knowledge, including discussions of best practices for all of the above activities, and why each of them matters.

  • A presentation on earth as a building material, including both the science of how earth holds together as a building material, and the art of earthen building as explored through a slideshow discussion of earthen architecture around the world (including our eco-campus in the Himalayas).
  • An overview of other earthen building materials and techniques, with a look at the pros and cons of each, and how to evaluate the best materials and methods to use in your own unique situation.
  • Daily morning yoga and meditation practice to ground into our earth body, restore balance and vitality.
  • Discussions exploring our connection with the Earth, and with nature more generally, and how we cultivate a deeper sense of connectedness with nature in a cultural context that has lost most of that wisdom.
  • Meditative nature walks and other opportunities to observe the earth in the context of the site and discuss what we observe.

All of the above activities together will provide a well-balanced integration of theory and practice, will empower participants with basic skills and important sensitivities, and will provide a good foundation for further explorations (whether those might be with us or elsewhere).


Earthville’s architecture faculty has been practicing and teaching natural building since 2010, with projects ranging from the Himalayas to Brazil, from Southeast Asia to here in the US.

Daphne Charles

Daphne Charles is the senior architectural instructor for Earthville’s programs worldwide and the chief architect for the Earthville Institute in Colorado. She is a holistic architect and designer working internationally and a licensed Biogeometry practitioner. Living and working in both Singapore and Australia, Daphne gained an early appreciation for diversity of experience and perspective. Recognizing the universal importance of balance — in body, mind, relationship, and environments — led to Daphne’s twin professions as holistic architect and yoga teacher. Seeing that our “inner” and “outer” worlds are merely different aspects of the same whole, living system, as expressed in our ancient wisdom traditions, Daphne seeks in all her work to catalyze harmony between thought, action and manifestation.

Mark Moore

Mark Moore is a natural builder and experiential educator, founder of Earthville Network and cofounder of Dharmalaya Institute for Compassionate Living in the Himalayas. He studied vernacular eco-architecture and natural building for 12 years with the award-winning Didi Contractor of India, with whom he established an eco-architecture training program that has empowered hundreds of builders from around the world. As a practitioner of meditation and a facilitator of retreats, he emphasizes a contemplative approach to design and building, with profound sensitivity to nature and context, seeking the embodied integration of inner and outer sustainability.


The workshop will begin at 9:00am on the first day and continue until 4:00pm on the last day. For the best experience, we recommend you plan to stay on site for the entire week, to allow yourself the opportunity to be fully immersed in the experience.

Those attending this workshop may be interested in gaining more learning and experience by also attending the workshop that runs September 10-16. If participating in both workshops, you’ll have the option of either taking a break during the intervening week (perhaps to explore the gorgeous Four Corners area) or remaining on site as a volunteer to help with the work that will be happening in between the two workshops. If you’re interested in either possibility, let us know and we’ll be happy to discuss possibilities with you.



Further details will be posted soon. Meanwhile, for details, or to let us know you’re interested, contact us here.