Students at Colorado State University-Pueblo have found a natural and stylish way to keep cool. Under the tutelage of Maya Avina, a CSU-Pueblo art professor, they have constructed a cob bench. “It was a group of seven students – all women – and myself,” Avina said.“It’s a growing trend to use natural materials for building and that’s just what we did here,” Avina said. “The goal is to incorporate natural non-industrial materials as much as possible. A breathable white lime stucco refines the beautifully sculpted walls.”

“It has this presence that you don’t get from a stick structure. Natural building sites are safe for children and animals, because you don’t use a lot of heavy equipment or dangerous products.”

A portion of the bench is under a roof and it curves to the outside. The cob walls have windows and niches cut out at different levels to the sunlight. A small patio made of stone extends to the front of the structure. Flagstone was scored and broken to fit the edge of the bench and scraps pieced together with granite for the mosaic surface. All the stones were assembled with masonry cement. Shade tarps keep the site comfortable in the Pueblo sun.

Avina said the timber used for the project’s small roof was harvested in fire mitigation from forests in the state. The entire project was constructed with mainly hand tools.

Aaron Alexander, CSU-Pueblo Art Department chair, said the department is gearing toward doing more projects like this one. “We consider this an academic exercise. It’s also serving as a beautiful piece of public art that folks can come by and see this culmination of the types of things that we do here.”

Nancy Saathoff, an art student graduating in December, said the accomplishment of finishing the project in the time they did is amazing. “Just watching it grow into this beautiful structure surrounded by natural elements. It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s been exciting for all of us,” Saathoff said. “It’s like taking the earth up and bringing it to human level. It feels cool in here. What a way to cool off.”

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