Benito Steen of "The Nito Project" on exploring new natural building techniques and teaching around the world: 131

Benito Steen for Abundant Edge.png

Today’s guest, Benito Steen is one of the people that I’ve most had requested from you listeners to do an interview with, in large part because of the success of his YouTube channel called “The Nito Project” where he works with his younger brother Panther to make beautiful educational videos on natural building techniques, earthen plasters and even the japanese method of making polished clay balls called Dorodango. Benito is the first of my guests who grew up in natural buildings since his childhood rather than coming to the trades later in life. His parents Bill and Athena Steen being well known natural building advocates and educators since the 80s, their family moved around the southwestern US and Mexico teaching workshops and collaborating on projects that became the base for the skill set that he now teaches and showcases in his videos. 

In this interview Benito talks about his early experiences and interest in building trades and craftsmanship not only with natural materials but metalworking and blacksmithing too. We talk in detail about the high end finishing work that he’s been learning and showcasing in his videos. We then explore the things that he and I have both learned from teaching natural building in different parts of the world; not only the challenges of different materials and access to tools, but also the different cultural and historical contexts that change the way people relate to buildings from the start. He and I also talk about some of the realities and challenges of building as a vocation and the process of working with clients and making a project come to fruition. 

This ended up being less of a formal interview and more of a conversation so don’t worry too much about getting concrete information and techniques out of this as much as a perspective from two young builders who’ve traveled around a lot and love to experiment and play with different materials and techniques. If you’re looking for more actionable information on these topics I highly recommend the interview I did with Benito’s dad Bill Steen in the previous season and also the interview with Kyle Holtzhueter, both of which we reference in this chat and that I’ve linked to in the show notes for this episode.

Resources:

The Nito Project channel

The Canelo Project

Abundant Edge interview with Bill Steen

Abundant Edge interview with Kyle Holtzhueter