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Root Down Designs to host Straw Bale and Cob Building Workshop



Press Release

April Magill, principal and architect at Root Down Designs, announced that she will be leading a straw bale and cob building workshop, hosted by Building Art Hive in historic Charleston, during the first weekend of June.

Participants in the weekend-long workshop (June 1st to 2nd) will learn to build with the world’s most sustainable and oldest building methods, led by experienced artisans and building professionals. Together they will build historic Charleston’s first permitted straw bale garden wall, in addition to learning historic and present-day usage methods for cob, clay plaster, lime plaster and lime wash. The fun and hands-on course will be facilitated by Charleston residents John Paul Huguley and Maggie Adkins and taught by Magill and Liz Johndrow.

Tickets can be purchased on Root Down Designs’ website, and participants younger than 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets cost $150 for one day, and $250 for the full weekend. With purchase of a ticket, attendees will be invited to an evening presentation and meet-and-greet prior to the workshop, on Friday, May 31.

Two scholarships are available to the public; those interested can reach out to Magill at

In addition to the workshop, members of the public are invited to drop in, free of charge, to learn more about these natural building methods. The time period for the complementary drop-in is noon-3 pm June 1-2. The work will be completed at 40 Charlotte St. in downtown Charleston.

“What John Paul is doing is unprecedented but absolutely appropriate in terms of utilizing sustainable building methods while maintaining the aesthetics everyone loves in historic Charleston,” Magill said. “We are excited to break ground on this important project that will also serve as an educational tool to teach these building skills. We invite the Charleston community, as well as Spoleto Festival USA visitors, to stop by and learn more.”

Details on the workshop:

Straw Bale and Cob Building Workshop

When: Saturday, June 1-Sunday, June 2

Time: 9:30 am-4:30 pm for workshop; noon-3 pm community drop-in (both days)

Where: 40 Charlotte St., Charleston, SC 29403

Cost: $150 for one day, $250 for both days; two free scholarships are available (For tickets, go to:

Hosts: Building Art Hive and Root Down Designs

About the instructors and facilitators:

John Paul Huguley, principal of Building Art and founder of the American College of the Building Arts

Armed with a degree in mathematics and business administration, Huguley went on to study historic preservation, architecture and structural engineering at the University of Virginia. While at UVA, he consulted on great American buildings such as Monticello, Gunston Hall and Fallingwater. At the national building technology and engineering firm Simpson Gumpertz and Heger, Huguley analyzed building problems, design flaws, maintenance neglect and material failures. He then went on to advance his professional training at London’s leading restoration firm Alan Baxter and Associates. It was on this foundation that Huguley built his dream – a national school, headquartered in Charleston, dedicated to preserving and strengthening the art of building through training the next generation of building artisans. After years of fundraising, strategic partnerships and political alliances, the School of the Building Arts became the American College of the Building Arts in 2004. Continuing his dedication to the school after his departure, Huguley founded his for-profit venture, appropriately named Building Art, to foster ongoing business opportunities for graduates and others to apply their craft.

Maggie Adkins

Adkins’s path began with the study of interior design. Her passion for architecture, fueled by a desire to work with her hands, led her to the American College of the Building Arts where, in 2018, she received her bachelor’s of applied arts and sciences in building art with a concentration in ornamental plasterwork. Her working knowledge regarding trade skills, design principles, technical drawing and the history of art and architecture have earned her work in both contemporary settings and the field of preservation. She recently began her own business, JO Studios LLC, from which she operates as a design draftsman.

Liz Johndrow, founder of Earthen Endeavors Natural Building, the Pueblo Project and the TERRA Collaborative

Johndrow has been a hands-on learner all her life. In 2004, with an earlier background in carpentry, she began her discovery of natural and earthen construction. This led to working on everything from straw bale homes in the northern climate and earthen construction in Central America. Johndrow’s passion for building and sharing knowledge led to founding Earthen Endeavors Natural Building in 2009 and launched TERRA Collaborative (formerly the Pueblo Project) in 2014. “I have always enjoyed living in spaces that bring me in touch with my natural surroundings. As a builder, I was thrilled to discover I could bring that contact deeper into my home experience through my choice of building materials. Since that discovery, I have been passionately exploring the world of cob, straw bale, adobe, earth bag, earthen and lime plasters, earthen floor systems, and timber framing. I find it most exciting that the simplicity of many of these systems and materials often allow for people of all ages and abilities to participate.”

April Magill, principal and architect at Root Down Designs

Magill is a licensed architect in Charleston and the founder of Root Down Designs, a full-service architecture firm dedicated to the advancement of alternative building methods and high-performance and healthy building systems. Magill is also an adjunct professor at the American College of the Building Arts, teaching sustainable earthen building methods. She has facilitated and led over three dozen building workshops in the Southeast.

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