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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Wanted: Earth Masonry House

The man on Tverskaya Ulitsa was holding up a piece of cardboard that covered most of his body with photographs of houses stuck on it. He was standing just north of the pensioner with a cardboard cup outside Yeliseyevsky’s food emporium and a few steps beyond the place where the beggar with the doped-out puppies usually sits.

The cardboard was held at an angle as if he was tired, but on closer view, that was down to the fact that he has lost part of his arm.

Artur’s piece of cardboard described earth masonry, a traditional craft used by the ancient Egyptians and common in Africa today, but now lost to most people in the West.

He was a cheery old soul despite his weather-battered look. He said he had made his own house using earth masonry techniques in the Samara region and that for 300 rubles he would provide all the books needed to build your own home from the ground beneath your feet.

As the ground beneath our feet was worth tens of thousands of dollars per square meter, I gave him the money. He handed over a compact disc with the name of his web site, A21.ru, written on the back.  

The disc has lots of pictures of what is presumably his house in the Samara region, as well as digital versions of three books on building houses using earth masonry. None of them was written by Artur, so he must have just read them at one time or the other and decided to sell them on.

Selling the books like this is almost certainly intellectual property theft, but the earth masonry movement would probably sympathize with the idea.

His name was Artur, he said, because his parents had been fond of an anti-Catholic book that was published in large print runs in Soviet times. The hero of the book was called Arthur and so he was too. Artur isn’t the most anti-Catholic name that you could end up with, but he didn’t seem too unhappy about it.

On his web site, he offers help building a house or finding a cheap house abroad, and offers up his own, somewhat vulnerable testimony.

“I started to drink and smoke and swear (although I haven’t smoked for 13 years at the age of five and for more than 11 months have barely touched any alcohol),” he writes, “But I am still a decent enough person.”  

He has two pictures on his web site, one showing him with longish hair, staring at the camera as he takes his own photograph. In the next picture his hair is frizzing out as if he had both hands on a Van de Graaff generator. His head is shaven now, and he was smiling when we met.