Books on Architecture
Earthships and Related
For living on earth, low impact, in some ways self-contained with
all needs for survival provided for (at least such is the ideal).
Beautiful, wonderful to touch homes designed and built by architect
Michael Reynolds in Taos, New Mexico.
Earthship vol I How to Build Your Own (1990)
Earthship vol II Systems and Components (1990)
Earthship vol III Evolution Beyond Economics (1993)
The fundamental classics for anyone interested in Earthship construction or designing and building anything similar.
Covers motivation for building something so different, basic ideas of passive
solar heating, obtaining clean water, natural materials (some ordinary lumber is used, but far
less than common stick frame construction) especially tire forms for rammed earth,
and dealing with waste.
Order from the Earthship Store
A Coming of Wizards A Manual of Human Potential
An architect's personal journey from beginnings of ideas, his first domes, to later structures
and deep thoughts and visions along the way. Many photographs, drawings. Find out what he means
by "spherical vision" and "leaning".
(out of stock at Earthship.net store = may be hard to find!)
Books specifically covering cob construction techniques.
The Hand-Sculpted House
One of the most popular and beautiful books on cob home building, by the hard-working
pioneers of the revival of cob in contemporary times. Extensive explanations,
and photos show you how test your site's soil, create cob and make it into walls, allowing for
doors, windows, and plumbing, types of roofing suitable for cob, and finishing touches.
This is more than a just a how-to book, though - one chapter invites you to redefine "house" so
you'll start off in the right direction, and others cover in detail proper site
selection and preparation, where foresight may make a bigger difference than any of the actual
Beautiful color plates are a treat in the center of the book, and
always elicit favorable comments from anyone to whom i show this part of the book. Electrical
and water system are discussed but not dealt with in depth, since other books cover these
topics which apply as well to other types of natural homes. Hand-Sculpted House
includes interviews with cob home builders and residents. The authors tell their own stories
of how they came to cob.
The Cob Builders Handbook: You Can Hand-Sculpt Your Own Home
A shorter but long enough book with the essential ideas.
Hand drawn illustrations, great personal touch to writing.
Earthy and practical guide to actually doing cob. (But don't start making mud
until you have the more recent info in other books.)
Natural materials besides the ones listed above, and natural/sustainable
home building at a more general level.
New Soc. Pub.
Great photos of houses departing beautifully from convention. Great info on
making earthbag structures, especially on dirt and construction wisdom general
enough to interest cob builders, earthship makers and other pioneers.
at Natural Homes
The Natural Plaster Book
After building the main structure of your natural materials home, you'll want to
apply finishing touches that are just as natural. Natural earth plasters to protect
and beautify the inside and outside of your home can be made inexpensively
from local resources, colored, and textured in many creative ways. This book explains
the types of earth plasters, silica paint, lime washes and other finish materials,
how to make them,
ways of applying them and their care,
with many pictures and diagrams including a beautiful set of color images in the middle
of the book. They show you what tools and other things to get. While applicable to nearly all kinds of natural constraction, special
attention is given to straw bale and rammed earth walls. They explain considerations of climate.
Unless you are already expert in the topic, this is an essential book for the final phases
of building your natural home.
The Natural House
This well-written, inspiring book explains the general principles of natural
houses and then explores several particular types,dedicating a chapter each to
straw bale, Earthships, adobe, cob and others. The book finishes with chapters
covering heating, electrical and water systems, and the natural "green" materials
avialable today. The chapter on cob is excellent and gives the reader a good idea
what it is, its advantages and disadvantages. The photographs and illustrations
are clear. There's also an interview with Ianto Evans, one of the pioneers in
bring back cob constrution to the US in our time. While the cob chapter is rich
in detail and tips, the serious cobber-to-be will want to peruse a full book on the topic or
even better, attend a workshop. The Natural House is an excellent introduction
for those just starting in cob, needing an overview of the subject,
or undecided between the various natural bulding techniques.
The Solar House
Another informative, useful, inspiring book by Dan Chiras. He lives in Colorado, one more reason it's my
favorite state. This book focuses on heating and cooling. As with his other books, he explains the
pros and cons of doing each thing a certain way. Tables of data to help with decision making - small tables to
give an idea of quantities you'll be dealing with. Did you know that when laying on a sofa in a house with radiant (floor)
heat, you might feel cold? In the sofa's thermal shadow, in a sense. That is one of many
bits of wisdom in this book thanks to Dr. Chiras' personal experience and network of experts and participants
in natural home construction.
Materials for Architects & Builders
Covers all types of materials of interest to architects - glass, stone, steel and other metals, insulation, wood and more.
Gives numbers for some materials, perhaps enough to do rough calculations on thermal properties, strengths,
and there's a table of sound absorption coefficients even,
but this isn't meant to be a engineering reference guide.
It's more a designer's overview of more materials
than i knew existed, with brief explanations of what uses and conditions for using particular materials,
how concrete is made, what is "visual concrete", or "wood wool slab" and illustrated with plenty of photos
and diagrams. A closeup of the aluminum discs on the Selfridges store in Birmingham England. Wow, i didn't
know you could do that with copper! Glistening titanium on the Glasgow Science Center.
Many types of glass, and how they reflect or absorb visible light and infrared.
There are extensive lists of standard, books and other sources for further reading. The main disadvantage
of this book for American architects and designers is that it is heavily British.
Architecture, Design and Culture
Bothered by shoddy and boxy houses, bland look-alike housing developments, overpriced "McMansions,"
strip malls, stupid post-modern buildings, poor land use and other spatially-related dysfunctions of modern society,
these architects and observers care about Human-scale construction with
homes that are beautiful, satisfying to live in, and support one's well-being.
They explore the problems we find ourselves with, the reasons behind them (and even the reasons behind those),
and ways toward a better future.
(in no particular order)
The Emerald City
with a foreword by Robert Harbison
A collection of shorter writings that will take you on an amazing architectural trip.
Visit a hospital where patients actually find healing.
Consider stone salamanders and poetic truth. Stories of artificial Christmas trees, the Tierra del Fuegians, Berlin, Santa Barbara,
the education of architects, CAD software and the loss of good style,
and of course the capital city of Oz.
Why was it made of emerald? Willis finds quick reasons to dismiss Ruby, Diamond.
Emerald, though, not only works for stories involving flying monkeys;
it also turns out to be worthy of a whole chapter of insightful observations in this book.
Why do we have ancient myths involving iron, bronze, wood, stone, but not plastic? Only
because plastic is too recent? Or does plastic not reach to touch deeper levels of our psyche?
What writer on architecture would explore such questions? Good book for a
big-picture, several-steps-back overview of what it's all about with many specific stories and illustrated with drawings by the author.
Thermal Delight in Architecture
Ever pay attention to warmth and coolness throughout your everyday life? This book is about
people's thermal sense and its relation to other senses, rituals, and of course buidlings.
With thermal symbolism obsolete and most building temperatures regulated (or misregulated) with central air conditioning and heating,
where do we find thermal delight today? Beds, porch swings, fireplaces, sunny sides of hills.
What about paying attention to the seasons and cycles of night and day?
This is a short book, a good insightful, nontechnical read. A reservoir of ideas for those interested in passive solar design.
"It is hoped that this collection of disparate examples may serve as a set of references for the designer." - from the author's preface.
The Phenomenon of Life
The Process of Creating Life
A Vision of a Living World
The Luminous Ground
This magnum opus of four volumes, called the Nature of Order, by the architect who wrote A Timeless Way of Building
and A Pattern Language
extends the work begun those initial books. (And further volumes
are in preparation...) Beginning with the observation that certain places, buildings, street scenes,
bridges and even boats, furniture and cups, have a certain hard-to-name quality
lacking in most of their modern siblings, the Nature of Order explores why this so. What is
is this quality, which Alexander refers to as "life", what is the difference between
living and non-living structures, and more importantly, can we add this quality in a practical way to the
things we build?
Many photographs illustrate the idea he calls "centers" and fifteen properties
of living structure. Though never straying far from architecture, the writing is often
philosophical and at the same time grounded in experience and real building projects.
The ideas are general, applicable to other arts, but always focused on the making of pleasing homes
One day, a friend of mine on the phone was feeling bummed out about all the bland rat-box housing
developments sprouting up all over the (pick any US city) area. One of the Nature of Order
volumes happened to be nearby, and without much effort found a nice section on the beauty of dewdrops.
I read this out loud over the phone and that cheered up my friend. Then some cannibals ate her. (just checking to see if anyone really reads any of this.)
These books are full of good hope, peace, beauty and inspiring examples.
I would like to plagarize the caption to one photo in volume III: "The blissful state: my wife,
in our kitchen. I have no doubt at all that this translucent smile, this happy reflectiveness, was
able to arise in her because of the nature of the surrounding: an ordinary kitchen, which i made not for
magazines, but in a way to make our family as comfortable as possible. It is not possible, I think, to separate
the life of the environment -- its untidy geometric ordinariness and organization -- from the
beauty of that sleepy smile which arose in her."
The books are large and heavy but not unreasonably so. They are pricey mostly, i suspect,
because they are provided through a small specialized publisher without the economics of scale
that a large slick publishing company could provide.
Due to some publishing quirk, volume III came out after volume IV.
Please visit the Pattern Language site to find out
more about Christopher Alexander and his ideas.
Living Lightly on Earth
More general books about green living and modern life, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels,
and the economics, environment and culture we live in.
The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight
Sounding like a great title for an historical or science fiction novel, perhaps - Ancient Sunlight
refers to the fossil fuels we burn and use in mass quantities every day.
I attended one of Thom's presentations near Chelsea Michigan in 1999.
I took notes.
If you're stuck in the bland suburbs around one of our major or minor cities, you probably
aren't going to be free to play with cob or pound tires for an Earthship. You might not
even be able to mount solar PV or thermal panels without a fuss from neighbors or a silly HOA
This book explains what you can
do! Getting with neighbors, composting, making paths,
etc. For those who can't do the major cutting edge stuff (though a photo of Dan's quasi-earthship-like house appears on the cover)
but wants life in the suburbs to be as wonderful as possible.
Reviews written by and (c)2006 Daren Scot Wilson - Boulder Colorado / Orlando, FL