Form and Function: Natural Building Design

2024 Canelo Workshop

Form and Function:
Natural Building Design

"Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union."
- Frank Lloyd Wright


  • Thursday, October 3, 2024
  • Monday, October 7, 2024
  • 06:00 PM
  • 05:00 PM


  • Canelo Project , ARIZONA


  • $ 650 inc. all meals

Form and Function:
A Natural Building Design Course

Are you ready to start a natural building project or dreaming of one in the future, but don’t know how to begin or which of the myriad of techniques to choose from?
This course will help you learn how to create a beautiful and comfortable space, whether it is your first home, a remodel, or a revamping of your patio. 
You do not need to be an architect to design your own space, but come learn some basic design principles that will help you meet your needs simply and efficiently. 
Throughout the workshop, students will create their own building design projects, learning basic drawing and design methods. They will also create their own models and site plans to present at the end of the course.
Through hands-on projects, you will also learn various natural building methods We will explore the pros and cons of each natural building method, so that you will be able to choose the most appropriate methods for your specific design circumstances.
This course will cover:
  • Basic building/architectural design principles, such as Comfort, Beauty, Natural Heating & Cooling, Wind, Ventilation, Light, Space, Scale, Access, Orientation
  • How to pick a proper building site
  • Site analysis and physical site layout
  • Basic drawing skills and physical model making
  • Plans needed for general code approval
  • Pros and Cons of different natural building methods to help design decision making. 
  • Introduction to natural building methods, with practical hands-on experience. Will include adobe, cob, wattle and daub, rammed earth and straw-clay blocks.
  • Space for group discussions of students personal projects
  • Dates: This course begins with orientation and dinner Thursday evening and ends Monday 5pm, with a dinner and breakfast following morning provided. 
  • Meals: all meals are included in the workshop price.
  • Accommodations: Camping and bunkroom beds are available and included in the workshop price. We have a few private rooms available for an extra cost.

Workshop Syllabus


Athena Steen grew up building with clay and adobe. She loves creating sculpted spaces that connect form with function, and walls rich with pattern, texture and color.  

Through the Canelo Project, a small non-profit organization, Athena has been teaching workshops for over thirty years, in strawbale construction and earthen building. Focused on simple, low-skill, low-cost methods that build community between people, culture and nature. 

Co-author of The Straw Bale House, Small Strawbale, and Built by Hand, her influence in the natural building world has been wide-spread. When Athena does not have her hands in the mud, she also enjoys publishing and designing books.

Maggie Kloote’s journey as a civil engineer began amidst the rolling landscapes and vibrant communities of Great Lakes, Michigan. She developed a deep appreciation for the natural beauty that surrounded her, sparking a lifelong passion for architecture, engineering and design. 

She received a Master’s degree in civil & structural engineering from Michigan Technological University. After which she embarked on a career path in the field of structural design for high-end residential homes in the stunning Tahoe region.

Despite this success, Maggie found herself craving a more adventurous lifestyle. Fueled by her urge to get her hands dirty, she made a bold decision to explore timber framing and sustainable construction. This led her to met her partner Oso Steen and the Steen family. Maggie embraced natural building as a way to integrate all her passions – architectural design, building, engineering and teaching – into a fulfilling lifestyle. 

Today, Maggie is executing her own natural building designs on private projects with her partner Oso, infusing each structure with a unique blend of form versus function. She is passionate about empowering others to embark on their own natural building journeys.