South Whidbey RECORD
Tuesday, March 25, 1986
by Lorinda Eastlick
When Dean Petrich, a professional clown, started
building his dram home he created a fun-filled adventure that challenges
all concepts of traditional living spaces. When Petrich strarted
in 1978 he wante his house to be an energy efficient alternatives model
that produce no waste. He also wanted his home to be more than a
single-family residence, believing that to be such a waste. This
structure will be home to 11 people and a place for hundreds to come and
The home is built with 50 fir poles anchored on concrete forms to form three hexagons. When complete there will be five hexagons with each area of the structure designated for a special activity.
Petrich loves to play, so he built the water area and toys first. A water slide to the entry to the underground water area where a sauna, cold plunge, rockery shower, and childrens' bath tub is located. Then you can enter the grotto and on into the secret tunnel tucked under the earth. Above the water area at ground level is a glass rood and green house. For garbage and refuse there is a cumposting toilet called aClivus Multrum that does away with a septic system.
The noisy hexagon is the entry area designed to help you leave the world behind. When it's completed there will be no rules and lots of toys, crafts, weights, and a puppet stage. "There's even clay to throw at the walls," Petrich laughs, believing people need an earea to get rid of frustrations.
The main hexagon, yet to be completed, will be th ekichen and eating area. "This will be the main social area," Petrich said. He wants to build a table that pulls up to the ceiling, leaving plenty of floor space for dancing. The kitchen will have a Larry Dobson swdust burning stove that will heat the room, water, and cook the food.
Another part of the house is a cozy hexagon built with lots of different levels so everyone can find a cozy little nook to curl up in. This will be the area for story telling and music playing -- no shoes allowed.
Every area has plenty of windows to allow light in and cut down on electricity, but the cozy hexagon has even more. One entire wall will open, allowing the outside in. "I was so used to living outside while building that I didn't want to lose that feeling in the house," Petrich said.
He loves to find used materials for the house and once found 120 doors from a building being torn down. "I was going to build my entire house with doors so I could say I had a house out of doors," Petrich mused. The doors ended up being used for the cement forms. The foundation still has forms that say "dressing room" and "elevator."
The quiet hexagon will be for reading and thinking with several enclosed nooks for sleeping. In that area there will be no taling or touching so people will not be disturbed, according to Petrich. For real isolation there is a tower built above the roof and just big enough for one person to sit quietly and view the mountains.
Everywhere there are skylights, thrmopane windows with creative angles and shapes, and mirrors to reflect the light from outside. The rood is flat with enough of an angle to collect rain water. The roof also has a solar water heater. Water will also come from a huge reservoir that was dug for that purpose.
Outside are gardens, stawberry patches and fruit trees. For the young and young-at-heart there is a huge spiral concrete pond for kida and a larger pond with slide for adults and big kids. For more fun, a huge sandbox and rope swing have been built and an outdoor theater will follow.
A major in English literature, Petrich had little construction knowledge before he started this project. He hitch-hiked around the country visiting communes and re-evaluating the building process.
"They didn't take anything for granted, but started from scratch," Petrich said. "I realized I didn't have to follow traditional building techniques."
Future plans include rammed-earth construction where cement is rototilled with dirt. The dir is mashed in forms and the moisture from the dirt makes the conrete set up. "Then presto -- you have a building out of dirt," Petrich said.
The first building you see is an "umbracone" build from plywood bolted together then bent over a center pole like a tepee. The sides were painted in bright colors by kids who created scenes like dump trucks pouring out the ocean with sail boats drifting by.
The unbracone will be the main gathering place open to the general public with an office and meeting room. Outside the umbracone is a neighborhood recycling area with barrels for glass and cans.
The house will producs no waste, according to Petrich. Everything will be composted or recycled. "Except plastic," Petrich said. "I still have to take that to the dump."
The house will be shared as an area for seminars, workshops, summer camps and birthday parties. This summer there will be a number of summer camps to adults to pre-schoolers. June 2-6 will be a play day and open house follwed by a senior citizens day on June 24. Participants will go on nature walks, enjoy the hot tub and mostly play.
From July through August there will be day camps for toddlers and campout for high school and younger kids. Each age group will have a week-long camp including activities in building for the older kids and nature studies for the younger.
August 19-21 will be a camp for learning clowning skills. August 11-15 will be an adult play camp.
When a clown like Petrich starts clowning around with his dream home the result is hard to put into words. Unconventional merriment comes close.