| Sep 11, 2008

Sept 11, 2008 - Radiance of the Ordinary in Burridge

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Feature Article - September 11, 2008 Something new, radiant and extraordinary in BurridgeBy Julie Druker

Raphael Kerem's hand-crafted traditional yurt in Burridge. The yurt's interior reveals its intricate structure.

Anyone passing through the wee village of Burridge and looking east may notice an interesting circular form, about 15 feet tall and as big around, a whitish building that seems, well, kind of unusual.

Raphael Kerem, wood worker, artist, owner and operator of “Radiance of the Ordinary” in Burridge has recently completed a project that has been brewing for decades.

Three and a half weeks ago he finished it. He finally did - he built a yurt. Defined as a portable, lattice-framed dwelling used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia, Raphael’s yurt sits comfortably on the lawn beside his workshop and home.

Raphael sees the yurt as a continuation of the work that he’s always been doing up until now—work that includes functional objects and custom furniture pieces. He refers to his work as “woodworking that has an ethnic and cultural context.”

He continued, “My main interest is ethnology, different people from different places in the world and their material culture.”

He first saw a yurt in Afghanistan in the 1970s. Since then he began thinking quite seriously about them and in 2001 took a trip to central Mongolia, a yurt-making hub, and lived there for three weeks with a family who built yurt frames.

“I did not become a yurt maker as a result of the trip but I definitely did get a sense of what was involved.”

The uniqueness of the yurt is its design as a portable dwelling. They are inhabited today and have been for thousands of years by nomadic families throughout central Asia who move on average five times per year as they shepherd their herds to new grounds. The yurt is specifically designed so it can be entirely disassembled and reassembled as needed.

Raphael said he designed and built “staying as close as possible to the traditional details and methods of construction used in Mongolia.”

He began the project in earnest about a year and a half ago and started with a series of studies. He showed me a model lattice design he put together which forms the basic design of the four-sided lattice structure of the yurt’s frame.

The framed structure is clad in canvas and is 14 feet in diameter. The structure is slightly raised off the ground, has one small wooden door, a tongue and groove wooden floor and one circular central roof opening covered by a canvas flap that can be easily swung open from the outside.

The latticed walls are lashed to each other with pieces of cloth. Each individual piece of the lattice has been steam bent to allow for flexibility and provides the overall circular shape to the building.

Each individual piece of the frame, measuring 20 inches across by six feet long, folds down.

The canvas that covers the walls on the outside can be rolled up to reveal netting that allows fresh air in while keeping the bugs out.

The outside of the structure is soft-looking, round and mushroom-like; its canvas skin hides the intricate structure within.

Inside the yurt one is struck by both its calming simplicity yet intricate and meticulous design. It is one continuous round space, bathed in a soft, diffused natural light that penetrates the canvas.

Two beams stand in the middle of the space supporting the central roof wheel from which spring 50 tapering orange wooden roof rafters. Each rafter spans the radius of the room and is lashed to the top of the lattice walls.

Raphael explained, “The entire structure can be taken down and packed into a pickup truck with lots of room to spare.”

Raphael’s wife Tanya joined us in the yurt and explained how in its short life it has already served as a guest room for visitors, a place to do yoga, a place of meditation for a Buddhist friend and a space for the couple to enjoy as well. She added, “A friend visiting from Florida said staying in the yurt was the high point of her visit.”

Not so difficult to understand. One is hesitant to leave the place. It oozes calm, peace, beauty, and simplicity. It feels clean, light, airy and open, and inside you feel very close to the outdoors.

Eventually the couple has plans to move it to a piece of property away from their home and to use it as a seasonal cottage.

Right now though, the yurt will stay put on the lawn at their home. Raphael is hoping to generate interest in yurts as an alternative living/work/recreational space and he sees it as a product that he will offer for sale along with his other functional work.

Anyone interested in visiting the yurt should contact Raphael Kerem at Radiance of the Ordinary in Burridge at 613-273-5693.

It’s well worth a visit for the curious, the alternatively minded and all appreciators of finely crafted ideas and things. An excellent opportunity for anyone in search of a peaceful, portable dwelling to take with them wherever they like.

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