SpruceRoots Magazine - June, 1998

 

On a balmy evening in June, Mark Ruzylo and Erica Thompson sat down with Janice Holdershaw and discussed architecture, building, and home. The following article is an excerpt from that conversation.

I was born into a military family that travelled all the time; so my life has been really nomadic. When I first came up here I built a house on the back of my truck and later some cabins on the beach. Then I began a process of asking people if I could borrow their space for five or six months as a building site for a mobile home project. At the time it was a matter of getting a house up and believing that I could put it somewhere else sometime later. It seemed a bit of a backwards way of going about it, but it was also appealing. In the end we all need someplace to call home - a place to put energy that is tangible and good.

Building is very much a process. You begin with a kernel, something very modest and it grows from there. I find a lot of joy in having an idea of structure and space in my mind, that I want to create - how you want this space to nurture you and how you want to feel about living there. At the speed I work the 'story' changes and evolves. It starts to gather momentum, takes its own course and the ideas then become tangible. I absolutely hate it when people try to impose the value where one has to be fast, fast, fast. Because you miss the opportunity to think about how you are going to interact with the space. I don't see myself as having found an economic niche because I'm not really interested in building for money.

 

I think one of the most enjoyable parts of building is going out and getting the logs; picking them out and being intimate with the immediate landscape.

Most of the logs I use were left behind in logging slashes or are blow-down. In my latest home I've used about 15 that were just left to rot. If you're at all the scavenger type you can go and find these logs everywhere. It seems that no one wants this wood; which is amazing to me. By using the wood that has been abandoned and creating with it one could build hundreds of homes.

 

 

 

I build mobile homes... I don't like big houses that make statements.

I build mobile homes and I don't like big houses that make statements. When building mobile structures there are weight and height restrictions, which provide focus and foundation for my expression. With limitation comes freedom. For somebody with my beginning skill level, starting at a small scale acts as a spring board for self confidence. I like the challenge of building small; working to create the illusion of spaciousness. You want it like a boat where everything counts. It has to be energy efficient and comfortable. I like things to tie together - to have the bones.

 

I like the challenge of building small; working to create the illusion of spaciousness. You want it like a boat where everything counts.

I get criticized and teased by the male carpenters in the community for building everything three times heavier than it needs to be. I like a house to be absolutely solid so that it can take any sort of stress. The sink should be heavy enough for two people to climb in and have a bath if they want to, without having it fall down. I would say strength is my first value and the second would be aesthetics. For me beauty is function. Symmetry is also important so when you look at a building your eye has a sense of balance. When I look at what I build I see a combination of strength, balance and beauty set in an unsophisticated design. I don't like the current North American gyprock idea of square boxes with outlets every six feet. I like the idea of having non-denominational spaces that can lend themselves to any sort of lifestyle. The last house I built was an attempt to challenge assumptions of what defines a living space. I want to move beyond conventions where this is a living room, this is a reading room, this is a bedroom, etc.. When I design a home the kitchen might be the living room and vice versa. The bathroom might have a Japanese screen or something similar instead of a door. For me, a home is where life takes place in the open.

 

I like the idea of having non-denominational spaces that can lend themselves to any sort of lifestyle.

Architecture and building are very destructive. If you are going to use a living thing, there is a responsibility to do something lasting and beautiful with it instead of the quick fix approach. Most men have ideas about building based on cost and speed. I've worked with men and I don't share those values at all. If you are building a space that is going to be around for 100 years or more it's worth it to put a little extra time and money into something that will reflect beauty to those who look at it after you are gone.

SpruceRoots Magazine - June, 1998