This is a highly personal book, perhaps too much so. I can't help it. I could no more write a dry technical manual than I could dance the Swan Lake Ballet. I have strong opinions, likes and dislikes. They are bound to find their way into these pages. If at times this book sounds like the drunk bellowing at the end of the bar, it was written, after all, by the drunk who is often seen at the end of the bar, bellowing.
My dislikes may offend you. Tisk tisk. So chat you may brace yourself, or so that we may start off on the wrong foot—which ever —I'll list a few here. I dislike businessmen, the American medical profession, "liberated" women, most architecture, agri-business, 90 percent of industry, cities, pavement, the .American philosophy of self-indulgence, strip-mining, clear-cutting, nuclear reactors, and anything having to do with recombinant DXA research and development. I consider television and the automobile two of the nation's greatest curses; the former because it rots the mind, the latter because it rots the body and destroys the land.
Mv likes may be equally offensive. I like tr.e protesters of the sixties, beatnicks, hippies, vippies, back-to-the-landers (including the women who will sometimes these days offer vou a cup of herb tea and serve it to you without a snarl), environmentalists, organic foods, the woods, wildlife, people who walk or ride bicycles, home-shop builders and back-yard tinkerers, fresh air, hard work, pure water, American Indians, saunas, my neighbors, my 40 acres, my dog, Bummer, and Nelly, my horse.
If vou find the majority of these likes and dislikes offensive this is not the book for you. You won't really want to design and build a home which is integrated with nature. What you want is a concrete bomb shelter buried so that you may save your own fat ass during atomic attack. You don't want a home which is a growing, living thing, which has light and air and views (which is what this book is all about). These are not your values. You couldn't build a house yourself, anyway. The first time you swung an axe you would probably chop your foot. Don't read this book. Television's your medium. Slug your wife, beat your children and sit down and write me a hate letter. That's a better employment of your time. At least that way you'll work out some of your frustration.
Now, for those who have survived so far . . . welcome. What we are going to try to do here is teach you how to design and build the most livable, pleasant, light and airy, the most in-tune-with-nature home you have ever entered. I've built several myself. They cost $50 and $500 each, including wall to wall carpeting in the latter case. That was a cost of about $1.35 per square foot as compared to the national building average of over $30 per square foot. To teach you to do this is a large task. But it is by no means an impossible one.
We have a number of things going for us, you and I. For one, I am not a trained architect. Not trained in a university, that is. So I'm not going to throw a lot of pedantic terminology at you to convince you that I'm really a brilliant dude and you are a little . . . well, just a little bit dumber. Nothing of the sort. We begin as equals.
If I have the experience, you have the will. If "I" have "invented" some new architectural designs, you can apply them. If it has taken me seven years of trial-and-error to get to my present degree of expertise, it could conceivably take you just seven days to assimilate most of it. If I had to start off blind—with no examples or texts to guide me—you have this book. That gives you a seven year running jump, a seven year advantage over where I was when I started. That's a hell of an advantage. That's a lot to have going for us.
We have more. If I'm not university trained (neither was Frank Lloyd Wright, if I may), this is only to the good. What they are teaching as the standard architecture curriculum in universities today is terrible. It's all concrete and glass. It's worse; it's a form of construction which is devastating to the environment. Modern buildings destroy wildlife habitat, take up farm land, waste energy, foul the air, help create adverse weather conditions, misuse material and are absurdly expensive. They are even gross eyesores once you learn to see it. Yet this is what students are taught to design. It's a long difficult process for an architect to overcome the brainwashing he's received in the course of his pursuit of that piece of parchment.
I didn't have to overcome this academic handicap. It was possible for me to start fresh, to look at architecture in a new way. Assuming that you have not had five years of brainwashing you will have this same advantage. Though the practice of truly good architecture is one of the arts, as much so as painting, it is possible for you to learn to design at least with competence. Under no circumstances are you going to do worse than what is being done by the vast majority of practicing architects today. Just by going underground you will surpass them. By using the methods of design explained later you will beat them hands down. Their houses won't even be in the same league as your owner-designed-and-built home.
Though not academically trained, I have lectured on underground architecture at more than thirty colleges and universities. At some schools, such as the Universities of Idaho, Washington, Oregon and New Mexico, I was sponsored by architecture depart ments, or by individual architecture professors. Not that the colleges today are open to innovation. Far from it. More schools refused than accepted the talks. Often I wasn't paid, the schools not considering it important enough a topic. Some places where I was refused flatly by the architecture departments the students themselves rallied, as they did at Berkeley and Harvard. They put me up, fed me, gathered an audience and even asked me to stay on.
This is not to bemoan my difficulties on campus. Rather, the significance of the years of lecturing was twofold. First, it gave me a proving ground for the theoretical aspect of my designs. Though there was occasional skepticism at the beginning of certain talks, and though I drew a fair number of professors, not once were the designs successfully challenged. The audiences invariably became thoughtful and bemused. New avenues had opened.
Secondly, the lectures forced me to present the material in a form which could be understood. By fielding questions then, I can anticipate your questions now. This is another of the things we have in our favor.
Few professional architects are going to like this book. That's fair enough; I like few professional architects.
They won't like it because to do so they would have to change their thinking. The professionals personify the status quo.
They won't like it because it teaches a do-it-yourself system which threatens their lush commissions.
They won't like it because it challenges their works. No one wants to admit that what he has been doing all of his professional life is wrong.
A few underground architects may be annoyed by this book. We use different materials and design techniques, they and I. But I think well of them. As long as they are going underground and are trying they deserve respect. There is room for differences of opinion and methods. Many of them have "hampered" their careers by stubbornly insisting on underground architecture. Commissions are scarce. Families must be fed. But a handful of resolute men have stuck with it.
Fortunately, they are about to be rewarded richly for their tenacity; underground architecture is soon to become very popular. Best guess is that within ten to twenty years it will become the most common form of construction in America. What's holding it up now is lack of public acceptance because of the preconceived notion of underground buildings as windowless, airless, basement-like buildings. When there are sufficient examples of fine underground architecture this notion will change. Acceptance by the public is perhaps only two years behind acceptance of solar energy, and insiders in that field expect a billion dollar a year business by 1981.
I am puzzled as to why the professional underground architects have not yet stumbled onto the Uphill Patio concept, the Offset Room and the Royer Foyer. With the exception of my own house and a handful of recent owner-designed-and-built underground structures in Northern Idaho I know of no other buildings employing these techniques. I don't even know of a single case where the pros have used the clerestory concept—a natural for underground buildings—though it is a common architectural technique, listed in every text on design.
If the professional architects, both above and underground, have one common failing, it is their reliance upon new, industrial produced building materials. Who among them is insisting upon salvaged windows? Who among them encourages builders to work up material native to the site? Even in forested areas, what architect has seen the wisdom 2nd economy of using whole timber con-struction—logs—which have been felled, seasoned, peeled, treated, stained and varnished by the owners or builders themselves, eliminating the high cost of logging, milling, transporting, advertising and marketing with the corresponding markups at each step until, in the end, the cost is outrageous?
I am not certain why the architects share this failing. Some perhaps are frightened that locally produced materials might not meet specifications. Others undoubtedly insist open the higher priced materials because their commissions will be higher. The heart of the problem may lie in the fact that most architects are city raised and educated and simply have no idea of the possibilities of locally worked materials. Of them all, only the underground architects have taken a step in the right direction; they at least are using earth native to the site. This, the finest of all building materials, is dirt cheap.
I will ask one thing of you. When you begin your project please, please stick to the five approved principles of design. I can't urge you too strongly on this point. It is vital to the success of your structure, especially if you go the PSP system, which I urge on you just as strongly. The five principles combined with the PSP system and the earth/carpet floor are the nucleus of this book. Together they will give you a house which has light, air, views and charm; an aesthetic delight. Together they can save you up to 90 percent of your building costs.
You may be tempted to experiment from the beginning, to try something "new." Chances are what you think is new is not new at all but something which we have rejected for theoretical reasons, or because we have tried it and it has failed, or because we have seen it fail on other structures. Build with the methods which are proven successful and you will have a successful house. Then when you add on later you may experiment, and if the experiment fails, you still have that livable home to fall back upon.
At the risk of losing my credibility with you; at the risk of having you think me a plain raving NUT, I'm going to throw out one final offering here. It is a discovery I happened across five or six years ago. It is a means of asking for and receiving instant advice from a source more knowledgeable than is to be found on any campus or library in the nation. It can help you on the design and building of your house, and in many other ways. It is a method of plugging into an information network much more sophisticated than all of the electronic/satellite/ computerized systems combined. It's yours for the using, and it's free.
I call it consulting the Great Potato. I happened across this discovery after several amazed years of consulting the I Ching, or Book of Changes. Are you familiar with the I Ching? It has been one of the two or three most influential books in Chinese history— a book on which all of the greatest Chinese
thinkers have been working for the past 4,000 years. Confucius, among others, worked on the I Ching. You don't merely read the book, you consult it for it is an oracle. It tells you what changes are coming ahead in your life, and how to deal correctly with these changes. If you have a problem it tells you how to deal with the problem. Since the 50's the I Ching has become the most influential book in American art circles, and among the young seeking alternatives. It has become this because it works.
The secret to the workings of both the I Ching and the Great Potato is chance. Chance? Yes. The ancient Chinese believed that the Divinity expressed Himself in three ways; through the creation of plants, animals and man. In order for there to be a fourth mode of expression which we could understand clearly when asking for help (praying) the Chinese utilized chance, because chance of itself has absolutely no meaning. Because it has no meaning, a deeper meaning can come into it. By utilizing chance you can receive a direct answer to a question asked of God.*
How do you utilize chance? By flipping a coin. In the case of consulting the I Ching you flip three coins at once and do it six times. This tells you where to look up the answer to your problem in the book. (The mechanics of this are too complicated to go into here. If you are not familiar with the I Ching, I suggest you find some young person who is— many long-haired back-to-the-landers, young adults, or college people could help you. The best translation to use is the Wil-helm/Baynes translation published by the Princeton University Press.)
In the case of consulting the Great Potato, you flip one coin one time. You state a question in your mind (or out loud to perhaps skeptical friends—as I say, they may think you're finally gone around the bend), you do a little quick praying, and you flip the coin for the answer. The question should be one which has an unknown element in the future. It may be as simple as "Should I go to the store today?" or as complicated as, "Should I add another room to the house?" If you are receptive to the Forces Beyond, you will get the correct answer. To find out whether you are receptive, I'd suggest getting into the I Ching first. There the answers are printed out in black and white and it will soon become apparent whether the system will work in your case. It doesn't work for everyone. Not everyone is receptive.
More decisions about the design and construction of my house were made in this manner than I'd care to admit. In fact, I may do some subtle bragging in this book about "discovering" or "inventing" such features as the Barbecue Windows, the Uphill Patio, the Offset Room, the Royer Foyer, and others. The fact is, however, I was guided to these discoveries, sometimes while consulting the Great Potato, sometimes by other means. It was not due to any special ability or creativity on my part. The Forces Beyond led me to these discoveries. Just thought I'd give credit where credit is due.
*It is interesting to note that the most recent government of China, the Communists, have made repeated attempts to ban the / Ching and its use. This has caused considerable puzzlement and distress among young, American long-haired Mao worshippers. The reason for the attempted suppression is easy to understand, however, when one recalls that a central axiom of communist dogma is that there is no God. Any book and system which not only affirms but proves the existence of God is therefore a threat to the whole of communist theory. The suppression has never gotten very far. The book keeps popping back up.
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