EARTHSHIPpresented by Nicolas Pages

  • Distant view of REACH community, New Mexico
  • Photos by Earthship Biotecture
Earthship
  • Earthship France, Normandy, Kevin Telfer
  • Photos by Earthship Biotecture
Earthship
  • REACH Community, New Mexico
  • Photos by Earthship Biotecture
Earthship
  • Earthship à différents niveaux, Taos, New Mexico, Kirsten Jacobsen
  • Photos by Earthship Biotecture
Earthship

Living off grid

Isn’t it time we reinvented ourselves?

What would you say if your next home were a machine?

More futuristic than a spaceship sent earthwards by some lunar gods, but far from civilization?

Imagine that this home looks after you, produces the electricity you need, supplies running water, grows food and assures you all creature comforts (including broadband access to the Internet) without any monthly bills or heating system. A home that would be yours to own and would not be polluting.

Several of these machines have existed for the past 15 years at more than 4000 meters high above sea level in the mountains of New Mexico, where there was no possibility of arriving with a truck.

The architect and founder of the Earthship Academy based in Taos, New Mexico, Michael Reynolds, nicknamed The Garbage Warrior, has succeeded using the different natural phenomena provided by our dear blue planet to maximize the construction’s energy efficiency. Although his Earthships have little in common with the aesthetic standards of international luxury, the concept is more than appealing. We need only be prepared to put aside our reflexes and prejudices, and to use our hands.

Conventional architecture has no true bond with earth. For example, we have simply forgotten that at a depth of just 1.5 meter, the ground is at 17ºC throughout the year. And this temperature can be exploited since it is not very far from our own comfort zone. “The first thing I did was to tie into this phenomenon, by importing this heat into the house in order to create a thermal mass. Then I sought to insulate the house on the basis of this warmth and use the sun to warm the interior and rainwater collected on the roof, rather than see to protect myself from them”, explains Michael Reynolds, who swears he had his idea simply by observing nature. “I like to look at trees. Trees are the perfect example of something that takes into account all the different phenomena of our planet.”

A tree has its own system of piping. Since it is not insulated from the grounds, its roots draw up water. It breathes out oxygen whereas a human being does exactly the opposite. An almost perfect balance exists between trees and living beings. “A tree gathers energy though its leaves, while we gather energy using our system of solar panels. When a tree loses its leaves, these produce soil in which other trees can grow. The concept of garbage does not exist in nature.”

The building must have the correct proportions, the right depth and length of façade (in glass). It is a mathematical formula. The main wall is made of tyres, which filled with earth, create an ideal thermal mass and emit sufficient heat when night falls, whether the temperature outside be -30 ºC.

The formula will continue to evolve if we begin to demand that any new construction take into account these 7 aspects: thermal/solar heating; building with natural and recycled materials; water harvesting; contained sewage treatment; food production; permaculture/aquaponics; solar/wind electric systems, which would help make our home off the grid, and capable of all functions without the use of outside energy sources.

by Nicolas Pages

Earthship

Nicolas Pages was born in Lausanne. He was awarded the Grand Prix des Beaux-Arts, after studying architecture. He is an artist and has written five novels for Flammarion and J'ai Lu. He works with Nan Goldin. Currently an iconographer and designer of books of photographs, he is also the man behind the very recent edition of Balthus, The Last Studies (Steidl, 2014), as well as a show at Gagosian, NY, and Yul Brynner: A Photographic Journey, at 7L (2010). He is working on special projects in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rossinière, Tokyo and Milan.

EDITORIAL PROJECT SPONSORED BY HOGAN REBEL