11 Aug 2015

Tiny Housing, Grand Living: Orii di Corsica

Welcome to our brand new series, Tiny Housing, Grand Living. Herein Mirabelle explores compact living habitat under all its guises, spanning climates, cultures and timelines. I am starting off with a bang and a WOW! of wonder, with the integration of tafoni (honeycombed rock surfaces) into the built environment, with whimsical faerical results! Just follow me down the southern part of the Mediterranean island of Corsica.

Those under-rock troglodyte shelters are called Orii in Corsican (Oriu, singular). They look like they might have - either directly or coincidentally - influenced  fantasy authors (and graphic artists!), and one would be forgiven for thinking Tolkien and The Smurfs Village as they tread the smooth rockfaces and climb the sea-salt-polished boulders surrounding those enchanted mushroom-shaped dwellings. The shelters are perfect examples of a harmonious integration of nature into human habitat.

Originally used as shelters in prehistoric times (as far back as 7,000-10,000 BC), those peculiar ground-level caves were later rendered more habitable by nomadic shepherds who erected dry-stone walls to close off openings. The shelters were also used as granaries. Oriu di Grossetto (pict 1-2) depicts this fascinating contrast between the smooth mushroom-like cap and its weathered, hollowed basis. Meanwhile Oriu di Canni (pict 4-6), with its pointed spire-like structure, resembles a chapel. This article being only a synopsis, many more Orii of note are to be contemplated at Ma Corse!

Sources: (1) Double Oriu di Grossettu and (2) Arche du Chaos de Grussettu (Grossetto Tafoni Arch), photography by Corse Sauvage, via Flickr (18-Jan-2012). Further details (in French) from their informative website, Blog Corse Sauvage. (3) Oriu de Caldarello, photography by Ma Corse (Jean-Marie Vergès). Further details (in French) from their comprehensive Orii section. (4) Oriu di Canni, photography by Christian Comiti, via Flickr. (5) Oriu di Canni, photography via Perierga (article in Greek). (6) Oriu di Canni, photography by Loïc Colonna. (7) A tafoni close-up (for reference only): Tafoni Sandstone Rock, from El Corte de Madera Park, San Mateo County, California, photography by randomtruth, via Flickr. "Tafoni are small cave-like features found in granular rock such as sandstone, granite, and sandy-limestone with rounded entrances and smooth concave walls, often connected, adjacent, and/or networked. They often occur in groups that can riddle a hillside, cliff, or other rock formation. They can be found in all climate types, but are most abundant in intertidal areas and semi-arid and arid deserts. Currently favored explanations controlling their formation include salt weathering, differential cementation, structural variation in permeability, wetting-drying, and freezing-thawing cycles, variability in lithology, case hardening and core softening, and/or micro-climate changes and variation (i.e. moisture availability). Tafoni have also been called fretting, stonelace, stone lattice, honeycomb weathering, and alveolar weathering." (source: Wikipedia).

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