Sunday, March 7, 2010

Earth Ships, Garbage Warrior == Reuse, Retool, Rethink

It's pretty clear we need a new paradigm, or set of paradigms. Throw out building codes, let experimentation hold sway for the next ten years, get the American scientific and land use and legal systems to take a back seat, and let folk like Mike Reynolds and permaculture experts and others tied to sustainable and alternative building, agriculture, energy and Second Nature design be at the table to help 4 billion people suffering environmental and mega city degradation and falling hard on the impeding tipping points.

Mike Reynolds is the "garbage warrior," an architect who's been designing homes from the so-deemed refuse pool of throwaway stuff and natural objects for roughly forty years. His documentary gives us his world of sustainable and sanity design, and shows us his struggle with the vanguard, against the guys in suits, pitting the smart solutions against state honchos who just can't fathom progress outside the political box.

Earthquake, tsunami, typhoon, drought, bizarre climatic changes -- those are telling us we need these designs, and in Garbage Warrior, we see that governments affected by tsunamis want to fix the damage, using Earth Ship thinking and design, and Mike does it with low impact, grace, fluidity, overlaying it all with this concept of reuse and new-old design so people can live and thrive.

Autodesk's E-Squared series has some cool stuff based on some of the same principles. Check one out here:


Because land in the Netherlands is limited, the government has traditionally taken a strong role in the planning of their cities and suburbs. Under the auspices of a government-sponsored program called VINEX, it was decided that a disused dock area on the outskirts of Amsterdam should be the site for high-density urban housing.

In 1996, West 8, an urban design and landscape architecture firm, won the commission from the city to transform the docks Borneo and Sporenburg into residential neighborhoods with 2,500 housing units. Because these were the last two peninsulas in the area to be developed, the urban planning department had already learned a lesson from the lack of children in the other neighborhoods: Families with children wanted to live in houses.

So while it was a good decision to re-use the abandoned docks and keep the population of the area high-density, the challenge would be to design housing that appealed to families with children. Using design ingenuity and the natural landscape, Adriaan Geuze, a founding partner of West 8, found a way to demonstrate that family housing is not incompatible with dense urban areas.

Geuze's design for the master plan was to build a sea of narrow waterfront houses on intimate streets, punctuated by three large sculptural superblocks of apartments. He decided the houses would be tall, narrow and deep like traditional Dutch canal houses, and would sit back-to-back. Each house would have its own ground floor entrance, with strong gates and a secure parking space to provide the privacy and security that families wanted.

The master plan also stipulated that 30 to 50 percent of each house should be void to compensate for the fact that there was no garden or public green space to share. This void space usually came in the form of a private patio space within the house, or a deck on the roof. The houses were also built right up to the water's edge, which enabled safe private moorings that encourage residents to use and enjoy the waterfront location.

By harnessing natural daylight and using the vast waterways as core landscape design elements, the city planners and designers have successfully created a feeling of spaciousness while meeting the requirements of high-density housing. By offering an antidote to the typical trappings of suburban sprawl, the development maximizes limited space while maintaining the privacy desired by families inhabiting the neighborhood. Internationally celebrated as an example of high-density suburban-style housing done right, Borneo Sporenburg is a visually stunning and inspiring work of landscape architecture at the crossroads of sustainable design.

Check out Mike's Earth Ship on PBS
Check out the web site, Garbage Warrior:
The film

What do beer cans, car tires and water bottles have in common? Not much unless you're renegade architect Michael Reynolds, in which case they are tools of choice for producing thermal mass and energy-independent housing. For 30 years New Mexico-based Reynolds and his green disciples have devoted their time to advancing the art of "Earthship Biotecture" by building self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities where design and function converge in eco-harmony. However, these experimental structures that defy state standards create conflict between Reynolds and the authorities, who are backed by big business. Frustrated by antiquated legislation, Reynolds lobbies for the right to create a sustainable living test site. While politicians hum and ha, Mother Nature strikes, leaving communities devastated by tsunamis and hurricanes. Reynolds and his crew seize the opportunity to lend their pioneering skills to those who need it most. Shot over three years and in four countries, Garbage Warrior is a timely portrait of a determined visionary, a hero of the 21st century.

Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills.

Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.

"If you create your own electricity, heating and water systems you create your own politics. Maybe that’s what they’re afraid of.” Michael Reynolds

Thirty years ago, architect Michael Reynolds imagined just such a home – then set out to build it. A visionary in the classic American mode, Reynolds has been fighting ever since to bring his concept to the public. He believes that in an age of ecological instability and impending natural disaster, his buildings can – and will – change the way we live.

“If you want permission to do something different, you first have to prove that it works. To do that you have to break the law. It’s a Catch-22 situation.” Michael Reynolds

Shot over three years in the USA, India and Mexico, Garbage Warrior is a feature-length documentary film telling the epic story of maverick architect Michael Reynolds, his crew of renegade house builders from New Mexico, and their fight to introduce radically different ways of living. A snapshot of contemporary geo-politics and an inspirational tale of triumph over bureaucracy, Garbage Warrior is above all an intimate portrait of an extraordinary individual and his dream of changing the world.

“Tsunami warning systems are put in after tsunamis, security is tightened after terrorist attacks, and we’ll deal with global warming after it happens” Michael Reynolds

Garbage Warrior - Full length trailer on YouTube

Earthship Biotecture Earth Biotecture

A crew member shares photos

Structural photos of Earthships

Earthship Brighton, UK

Earthship build in Karuna, India

Earthship Durango, Colorado, US

Earthship Newzealand

Earthship Europe

Earthship Fife, Scotland

1 comment:

  1. we must admire the great work of mr reynolds, he is on to great things. My only dream was to be able to build my own family home but now after researching into the earthship business my whole attitude has changed I want to build an earthship too. one day I will get there hope many others think the same


This blog is brought to you by

This blog is brought to you by
Paul Haeder

Fuse Washington

Fuse Washington