Earthships in the Land of Enchantment

"There's No Place Like Dome"

Adobe style self-sustainable solar and wind house made out of recycled materials
Adobe style self-sustainable solar and wind house made out of recycled materials - Earthship House in Taos, New Mexico. Photo by Christian Aslund/Lonely Planet Images Collection/Getty Images

New Mexico calls itself the Land of Enchantment, and I couldn't agree more. Combining Native American traditions with the eclectic ideas of its many settlers, Tierra del Encanto has a long history of diversity and innovative design. And now, many of their breakthrough buildings are open for public consumption.

Back in 2005, I had just returned from Santa Fe where architects and designers were gearing up for three international design events—Santa Fe Design Week, the Southwest Design Conference, and Green Design Santa Fe ushered in a summer of architecture, interior design, landscape design, decorative arts, fashion, graphic arts, and urban planning.

That was then, before the Banking Collapse of 2008.

This is now. Blame it on the economy, but these collective happenings just don't exist anymore. Some sponsors, like Western Interiors and Design magazine, have gone out of business. Many attendees cut dreams from their bottom line in order to financially survive. In a bad economy, workshops, house tours, discussions, and presentations are not big events, if they exist at all, and often they act as fundraisers.

New Mexico's diversity, however, is the strength that allows this state to reinvent itself regularly.

Earthships in Taos, NM:

"Taos has become an epicenter for green building," claims taos.org. When you visit the area you can stay in Earthship Biotecture (nightly rentals) just like you would the Holiday Inn—except you live "off the grid."

Elements of an Earthship: Since 1972, architect Michael Reynolds has been experimenting with radically green architecture.

His "Earthship" is built in part with recycled products imbedded within ancient adobe materials. The structure is powered by solar, wind, and thermal dynamics. Water is "harvested" from the environment, food is grown onsite, and sewage is contained and treated where it was created. "We are simply adapting basic human needs to the already existing activities of the planet," claims Biotecture Planet Earth.

Biotecture Planet Earth, with headquarters in Taos, was founded in 2014 as the organizational non-profit fundraising arm of Earthship Biotecture. Its mission is to promote these concepts to developing countries around the world, and, in that process, educating people about the construction and maintenance of these homes.

What better way to educate the public than to kick the tires of an Earthship. And I do mean kick the tires, because many of these structures are built with recycled materials! What better way to promote your product than to let people use it. Go ahead, live off the grid. Some day there may not be a grid.

Learn More:

  • Earthship Homes at About.com Home Renovations
  • Taos New Mexico - for Family Travel at About.com Family Vacations
  • A Beginner's Guide to Eco Charrettes at About.com Sustainability

Domes in Santa Fe, NM:

And then there's the Bob Dylan song that for decades has highlighted Santa Fe's ecothinking:

"Santa Fe, dear, dear, dear, dear, dear Santa Fe
Since I’m never gonna cease to roam
I’m never, ever far from home
But I’ll build a geodesic dome and sail away
..."

Bob Dylan, 1973

So, think Santa Fe and think geodesic domes. But these days you don't have to be a superstar to lease one.

With online networking travel services, renting out unique homes is easier than ever, and I found a geodesic dome for lease on Airbnb.

Build them and they will come.

Santa Fe does not stand still. A community of artists and practitioners continue to evolve, pushing forward matters of ecology, sustainability, and design. Here is some of what's happening:

  • Creative Santa Fe promotes local economic opportunity and art by sponsoring events such as The FANTASE Dome Fest
  • Architect James Stodgel developed Only Green Design (OGD), creating Eco Bricks and promoting Upcycle Santa Fe
  • The mixed-use planned community of Oshara Village fell on hard times, as have other sustainable, "green" communities (e.g., Loreto Bay). After filing for bankruptcy, lowering prices, and struggling to build the hundreds of eco-houses for willing buyers, developers have modified the Master Plan with the county's approval.

Learn More:

Sources: Biotecture Planet Earth, Indiegogo crowdfunding page; The Mission, What We Do, biotectureplanetearth.com; taos.org at http://taos.org/outdoors/green-taos?/item/61/Green-Design-and-Building%20Biotecture%20Planet%20Earth [accessed November 26, 2014]