A 65-square-metre yurt–a circular, semi-permanent tent-like structure common to Mongolia and other parts of Central Asia–now sits on the grounds of the UBC Farm. A rare sight at a university, not to mention an urban setting, the centuries-old design of these collapsible bent wood structures is simple, smart and sustainable.
UBC Farm will use the yurt for courses, children’s programs, community workshops, as well as events and lectures.
“We were bursting at the seams with our programming and our current facilities couldn’t keep up with the growth that we were seeing,” says Director Amy Frye. “Building a yurt seemed like a sustainable solution.”
Yurts consist of a circular latticework frame wrapped with fabric and covered by a domed roof. They are easy to assemble and transport while also sturdier than a typical tent.
They first started popping up in North America in the late 1960s, and have become more popular in recent years. Their historical significance, however, dates back much further.
“Yurts have been the primary form of housing in Central Asia for centuries, even before the arrival of Genghis Khan,” says Julian Dierkes, a sociologist and expert on Mongolia at UBC’s Institute of Asian Research. “These ancient dwellings remain hugely significant in the region.”
In addition to nomadic Mongolians, nearly a half-million people who live outside the capital of Ulaanbaatar still live in yurts, Dierkes adds.
As for the yurt at UBC Farm, Frye says it’s the first step towards greater expansion.
“We hope to see even more infrastructure go up in the next couple of years that’s as unique and useful as the yurt is already proving to be.”
The yurt was made possible by a number of generous donors and friends of the UBC Farm who supported the project.
–With files from Shannon Lambie, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm