07 December 2009

Underground and Sustainable with Malcolm Wells and Donald Watson


When I read this obituary, of Malcolm Wells, in yesterday's Times, I thought at first it might be of the guy who designed this house in New Canaan (I'm at the stage where I write something and then remember only some of it a few weeks later).

Turns out that they're different architects, but with similar ideas. Donald Watson and Malcolm Wells both liked to build underground, among many other things. Here's what the Times said about Wells:

Bearded, affable, self-deprecating and appalled by the destructive footprint that buildings, roads and parking lots can leave on the earth, Mr. Wells was dedicated to what he called gentle architecture, something that would, as he put it, “leave the land no worse than you found it.”

Writing in Architectural Digest in 1971, he set forth 15 goals that he said all new buildings should strive to meet. Among them were to use and store solar energy, to consume their own waste, to provide wildlife habitat and human habitat, and to be beautiful.

To that end, his designs incorporated the land. He designed some homes (and other buildings) that seemingly burrowed into hillsides, and others whose main living space was subterranean, perhaps with above-ground lean-to roofs or atria and skylights to let in the sun. In general, his roofs were covered with layers of earth, suitable for gardens or other green growth.


The photo comes from malcolmwells.com, which says, "Please distribute the content contained in this web site." Wells wrote his own obituary, which you can read on the website. -- ta

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was very young when I first came across writings by Malcolm Wells...long before I considered architecture school...I was blown away by his concepts. I often referred to him in conversation and was usually returned with a blank stare. His buildings were way before their time (and unfortunately before the appropriate technology). He is one figure that will continue to be "found" by generations of architects.
Wm. Earls AIA

Tom Andersen + Gina Federico said...

We would have given you the blank stare too but we're glad to know about him now. It would be interesting to hear about how some of his other projects have stood the test of time. Thanks, Bill. -- Tom