On Saturday 16 December, Owen Griffiths will create a structure, inspired by the folklore of the of tŷ unnos and shaped by conversations and collaboration of the communities who live and work in and around the Botanic Gardens.

Owen Griffiths is creating a public performance and vernacular structure in collaboration with the volunteers, staff and visitors of the National Botanic Garden of Wales. By weaving local tree stories and timber materials into his residency, the project explore contemporary political issues of land and sustainability through the relationship between the trees and people in the Carmarthenshire landscape.

Owen is a graduate of the School of Walls and Space at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. In 2014 he was a British Council Fellow and in 2016 was awarded Cultural Ambassador for Wales.His work is connected to redeveloping a new sense of urban vernacular, community and collaboratively-led research focusing on issues of land, food, social justice and civic design.

In Wales there is a tradition of tŷ unnos (one-night house) which dates back several hundred years and suggests that if you were able to build a house on common land, with a fire smoking out from the chimney, the land was then rightfully yours. The idea of a one-night house appears throughout the world, mostly as folklore but sometimes in customary and even statutory law. In the spirit of tŷ unnos, in particular how the urgency can create material limitations and the need for community involvement. On the 16 December Owen will create a temporary structure, shaped by conversations and collaboration of the communities who live and work in and around the Botanic Gardens.

Tŷ Unnos Events


In late November Owen will be moving his mobile studio to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales. This small yellow caravan will become a meeting and research space where he will host volunteers, staff and visitors who engage in the project. Owen will be using the caravan as a space to design and draw and consult with experts as he works on the a sculptural house which will be built in one day using felled timber from gardens. 

Owen is fascinated by the terminology, phrases and language of the Charter, which are bound to legal, land and civic etymology, to commoning rights, to protection and preservation, which has since been eroded or forgotten. The relevance of this language and its poetic qualities chart a disconnection from land, its the practices and laws, which were once so important. What are the legacies of these laws now? What is the effect of the Charter of the Forest for people today? In particular, what does this document and its histories say about social disconnection, land use and privatization in the 21st century?

Owens work in the National Botanic Gardens of Wales will create conversations, and in the spirit of Tŷ Unnos explore how urgency can create material invention and community involvement. The structure will become a temporary space for people to gather at the Botanic Garden, and perhaps create new conversations about how communities should interact with the landscape and use the Garden in years to come. 

“(The) Magna Carta acknowledged the widow’s ‘estovers in the common’ (fuel) while its companion, the Charter of the Forest, protected pannage (pig’s food). The lexicon of the agrarian commons – turbary, piscary, herbage, etc. – is obscure, forgotten, local or arcane. Much communing is durable to the extent it is invisible.”

From ‘Stop Thief! The Commons, Enclosures and Resistance’ by Peter Linebaugh 

“Trees are key to our survival. They came before us and we have used, abused and loved them for thousands of years. They have provided our sustenance, food, shelter, medicine and the air we breathe. They are our history and our future. Yet we take them for granted.”

From ‘In a Nutshell’ by Common Ground 

Research Images : Les Glaneurs, 1857, Jean-Francois Millet

Research Images : Stryd Lydan interior Barn, St Fagans

Research Images : Stryd Lydan exterior Barn, St Fagan


Owen Griffiths’s first working drawings for Tÿ Unnos, watercolour on paper, June 2017.

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