Earth area


 visit the current theme

Yourtes, mais encore?

Les abris qui consistent en charpentes pliantes circulaires de perches en bois couvertes de peaux ou de canevas sont appelés des yourtes (du russe jorta). Ce sont des habitations portatives; cependant une fois construites, les yourtes ont toutes les caractéristiques d'habitations permanentes. Elles peuvent faire face à de forts vents, elles sont fraîches en été et avec un poêle à bois, vous êtes confortables à des températures extérieures sous - 40 ºC!

L'ensemble de l'univers est représenté dans ce type de construction. Les yourtes sont des abris qui permettent aux gens de vivre d'une façon durable sous les climats les plus sévères, qui permettent de voyager avec les troupeaux, de vivre dans une communauté tribale et d'élever une famille siècle après siècle d'une façon simple mais confortable et en harmonie avec le monde tout autour.


Yurts or Gers?

Selene Cole
Sierra Club of Canada- Atlantic Canada Chapter
August 2004

It is difficult to define why circular shapes hold such a special magic and fascination. Maybe it is their natural affinity with the cycle of life--the movement of the sun, moon, and stars, and the cycle of the seasons. Maybe it is some archetypal memory of, and resonance with, former circle homes and round houses of our forbearers.

(photo: Selene Cole)


Shelters that consist of a collapsible circular framework of wooden poles, covered with felt or canvas, are called yurts or gers. They are portable dwellings; however, when in place they have the characteristics of permanent buildings. They can withstand very high winds, are cool in the summer, and when fitted with a log burner, you can stay cozy in temperatures below -40degrees Celsius! The word Yurt is an anglicized version of the Russian word Yurta, which in turn, is derived from the Turcic yurt, describing a campsite. The word Ger actually means home in Mongolian. The Ger was invented almost three thousands years ago by nomads in central Asia and the structural elements have not changed much since then. Mongolia is the great stronghold of the ger, where the ger is still home to three-quarters of the population.

To the Mongolian people, the Ger is more than just a simple dwelling. In its construction the whole universe is represented. It is a shelter that enables people to live sustainably in the harshest of climates, to move with their herds, to live in tribal communities and raise their families century upon century in a manner that is simple yet comfortable and in balance with the world around them.

My husband and I lived on a sustainable arts community in Wales where we learnt how to make traditional gers and bentwood yurts. Families and individuals came to learn how to make these unique shelters in exchange for helping on the community.

We have recently formed a non-profit organization, YESS, that runs educational workshops on constructing the Ger with a group of people, then going inside and discussing sustainable living, Mongolian culture, green woodworking, and other artisan information such as felt making.

(photo: Selene Cole)

In the past four months we have finished constructing a Mongolian style ger with the help of many volunteers. The ger was constructed out of a combination of re-used timber from the building industry, recycled window boxes, reshaping slab wood from an eco-forestry farm, and some amounts of coppiced material. From a construction point of view, YESS aims to show that there is always a way to use local and reused materials for the builder, utilizing a variety of new and old ancient building techniques.

Another important aspect of the society is to involve volunteers and members in the making of these shelters to enable them to learn a variety of skills such as: steam bending, green wood turning, splitting wood with a froe, shaping green wood, canvas making and using a variety of hand tools and eventually getting into felt making. In our efforts to reduce energy consumption, we try whenever possible to take ourselves into the woods rather then transporting raw materials. In this way people can experience the joy of being outside in nature, building a temporary woodland workshop, and creating a shelter that is sustainable.

We also provide other non-profits, and community organizations with gers to use for their own workshops, accommodations, or other venues.

(photo: Selene Cole)

So far, we have held a workshop at EcoTopia, a festival for youth interested in environmental education and sustainable living. We will be providing a ger for The Ross Creek Centre for the Arts in Canning, NS for their Native Kids Camp this summer, and the EAC's September Harvest Festival. We have led workshops at Dalhousie's Architectural- Natural Building course, and will be bringing the yurt to the IWK's Children's Ward in Halifax engaging the children's in Mongolian culture and yurt living. We are also bringing the ger to The Sierra Club of Canada - Atlantic Canada Chapter's & The New Brunswick's Environmental Network gathering at Camp Chaleur, N.B in September this year.

If you would like to become involved and hear about the latest news regarding membership please contact Selene Cole at