Alternative technology down at the Droridge

One rather forgotten aspect of Dartington’s engagement with alternative ideas is their engagement, through the College of Arts, with alternative technology. This started in 1973, the same year that the Centre of Alternative Technology (www.cat.org.uk) was being set up in Machynlleth. For a period Dartington even had its own small scale equivalent down at the Droridge. This extract provides some details.

Incidentally, if anyone could reassure me about the legalities of reproducing images from the Dartington Hall News on the internet I could post up some images of the Droridge.

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Paul Oliver arrived at the College of Arts as the Director of Art and Design at the College September 1973. He bought with him an interest in intermediate and alternative technology, inspired by the work of E.F. Schumacher. In an introductory piece to his ideas he links the rise of alternative technology to a wider concern for the ecology of the environment. He also sets out a vision in which Dartington embraces alternative technology

“It is hard to envisage a centre with as great potential as Dartington to develop a self supporting, ecologically balanced, alternative-technology-based community. Studies in Intermediate and Alternative technology could be developed here at a level which is scarcely possible elsewhere.”

Oliver goes on to outline how Dartington’s connections to the Asian Institute and the African Trust would enable the technologies to be applied, whilst there was great potential in collaboration with the farms, forestry, horticulture and craft activities around the Estate. The immediate aim was to start studies in Design for Intermediate and Alternative Technology in the Art and Design Department of the College, later in 1973. Art and Design students in the College therefore began to study solar energy, wind energy, methane digestors, hydroponics and a range of building techniques including geodesic structures, cob, compacted earth and the use of recycled materials. The Dartington Trust offered the students a small orchard site and the Shippon (a disused milking parlour) at Droridge Farm to use for their project, which became the base for the Intermediate Technology Department. Over the next couple of years a number of the ideas were implemented there including a compost toilet, solar energy and a geodesic greenhouse.

The interest in alternative technology seems to have died out by the late 1970s, as bemoaned by two female students who built their own log house within the grounds of Dartington in response to the local housing crisis.

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