Fri, Oct 11, 2013 - Page 6 News List

FEATURE: Swedish island constructing real-life hobbit village

BACK TO NATURE:Muskoe island will house 30 huts resembling Bilbo Baggins’ dwellings, using natural building materials to create an eco-friendly community

AFP, STOCKHOLM

A computer-generated picture shows an ecological house, created by architect Simon Dale, that looks like those inhabited by Hobbits in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and is to be built on the island of Musko in Sweden.

Photo: AFP

A real-life hobbit village will soon be nestled in the lush forests of a Swedish island, a whimsical housing scheme billed as the first of its kind — but behind the fantasy gimmick lies a genuine interest for sustainable development.

The hobbits, small characters with hairy feet in novelist JRR Tolkien’s fantasy classics, are a model of environmentally friendly living, British hobbit-house architect Simon Dale said.

“Hobbits portray people living a peaceful life in harmony with nature,” Dale, 35, said during a recent visit to Stockholm.

He was in town to plan for the cluster of 30 houses on Muskoe, an island about 40km from the city center amid Stockholm’s picturesque archipelago.

The island’s first hobbit house is scheduled to be ready in the middle of next year, with the village completed within a few years.

At first sight, the huts resemble Bilbo Baggins’ dwellings in Tolkien’s 1937 novel The Hobbit.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” Tolkien’s tale begins. “It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle.”

In Tolkien’s idyllic agrarian setting, the hobbits live in tune with nature — in stark contrast to the author’s era of mature industrialization.

The Swedish hobbit village will keep the notion of natural materials and soft, round shapes: the windows, doors and walls will all be curved.

Yet the houses will be slightly more up-to-date, built for city-dwellers longing to retreat to nature on weekends and holidays.

An induction hob, beside a wood-burning range, will be the “most high-tech thing integrated,” said Dale, whose design promises airy ceilings up to 3.5m high.

Energy efficiency will be a primary goal, so heating will come from solar power and wood-burning.

Natural building materials from the area will also be used, such as timber, stone, sand, clay and grass.

Dale himself has lived in a hobbit house for the past decade with his wife and two kids.

The family now resides in the West Wales community of Lammas, the first British low-impact eco-village of its kind. Building the earth houses has become a passion, said Dale, who was originally a photographer.

The village is not targeted at fans of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings — rather, it is intended to appeal to those who care about the environment and want to live close to nature.

“It’s a transition in lifestyle and values,” said Dale, who bears a faint resemblance to Bilbo as played by Martin Freeman in the new Hobbit film trilogy.

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