Category Archives: Architecture

Get Off The Grid

Garbage warrior-Michael Reynolds
Garbage warrior-Michael Reynolds

Off-the-grid living, typically in alternative communities means living independently of council amenities such as water, electricity and providing your own power. It’s about being more self-reliant, being less dependent on the system, and providing a less toxic food supply. Anyone is able to go off-the-grid using such things as solar panels, wind turbines and techniques in rainwater harvesting. Many third world countries encourage people to help each other go off-grid in their local regions. Making accessible the latest research in various alternate energy production. These techniques need not be expensive, difficult to manufacture or maintain. Nature is the best guide it operates simply and it wastes nothing.

Typical Earth-ship Bathroom
Typical Earth-ship Bathroom

Some 750,000 households in America have gone off-the-grid, and this trend is growing at 10-15% a year, this is not confined to one country however, various communities around the World have successfully become independent. Despite, interestingly enough, Power groups like the Bilderbergers and Trilateral Commission who vie to keep the old inefficient energy systems in place to protect their investments, but the numerous off-the-grid movements sprouting up all over the planet serve as an alternative to this kind of centralized power and control.

The term off-grid refers to not being connected to a grid, mainly used in terms of not being connected to the main or national transmission grid in electricity. In electricity off-grid can be stand-alone systems (SHS) or mini-grids typically to provide a smaller community with electricity. Off-grid electrification is an approach to access electricity used in countries and areas with little access to electricity, due to scattered or distant population. More and more these remote communities are turning to alternate energy means for their supply. This includes the local production of Bio-fuel, Solar power production, Mini-hydro-power and Wind power generation. An off-the-grid home may also incorporate a small animal farm,  vegetable garden, grey water, black water reclamation system and rain water harvesting.

Off-the-grid homes are autonomous; they do not rely on municipal water supply, sewer, natural gas, electrical power grid, or similar utility services. A

Rain Harvesting
Rain Harvesting

true off-grid house is able to operate completely independently of all traditional public utility services. The idea has been popularized and made accessible to the general public through the work and research of pioneers including Jean Pain who developed the technique of generating electricity through compost, Designer and Architect of the Earth-ship Michael Reynolds, Paul Gautschi of the Back to Eden Wood chip gardening method and survival experts Les Stroud and Cody Lundin who promote off-grid living by having constructed their own homes according to those principles and living off the land.

There are many different ways to generate energy, from simple passive solar power systems that utilize the natural path of the sun, to self perpetuating magnetic motors. Electrical power can be generated on-site with renewable energy sources such as solar, wind or geothermal; with a generator and adequate fuel reserves; or simply done without, as in Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities. Such a system is called a stand-alone power system.
On-site water sources can include a well, stream, or lake that can encompass a paddle wheel to generate electricity as well as distribute water for irrigation. Depending on the water source, this may include pumps and/or filtration. Rainwater can also be harvested with rainwater tanks, mesh screens that collect early morning dew, and natural filtration systems such as limestone.

Eco Ark Building in Taiwan is made of Recycled Plastic bottles
Eco Ark Building in Taiwan is made of Recycled Plastic bottles

Survivalism is a movement of individuals or groups called survivalists or Preppers who are actively preparing for emergencies as well as possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales ranging from local to international. Survivalists often have emergency medical and self-defense training, stockpile food and water, prepare for self-sufficiency, and build structures that will help them survive or “disappear” (e.g. a survival retreat or underground shelter). Survivalists, sometimes associated with militia groups generally distrust government authority and ‘gear-up’ in anticipation of both local and global catastrophe, some of these Anticipated disruptions include but are not restricted to the following:

Detail of Polli-Brick System
Detail of Polli-Brick System

Clusters of natural disasters, patterns of apocalyptic planetary crises, or Earth Changes (tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, solar storms, severe thunderstorms). A disaster caused by the activities of humankind (chemical spills, release of radioactive materials, nuclear or conventional war, oppressive governments). The general collapse of society caused by the shortage or unavailability of resources such as electricity, fuel, food, or water. Financial disruption or economic collapse (caused by monetary manipulation, hyperinflation, deflation, or depression). A global pandemic. Widespread chaos or some other unexplained apocalyptic event.

Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe Excavation Site
Göbekli Tepe Excavation Site

Prior to Göbekli Tepe it was assumed , that Sumerian society was the first advanced civilisation.  6,000 years before the invention of writing neolithic cultures carved intricate designs, sigils and images in stone, most of which concern themselves with farming and fertility.  But Stone tools did not carve these reliefs. Gobekli Tepe’s pillar carvings however are dominated not by edible prey like deer and cattle but by predators like lions, spiders, snakes and scorpions.  Some cultures have long believed that high-flying carrion birds transported the flesh of the dead up to the heavens indicating a concern of an afterlife.  But the temples’ true purpose lays beneath the half buried pillars and yet to be excavated by archaeologists and anthropologists.

Unlike the stark plateaus nearby, from Gobekli Tepe, perched 1,000 feet above a valley in Turkey , one can see to the horizon in nearly every direction. This is the temple of Göbekli Tepe. 500 miles away from Istanbul lies a hilltop sanctuary erected on the highest point of an elongated mountain ridge some 15 km northeast of the town of Şanlıurfa, in southeastern Turkey. It is the most astonishing archaeological discovery in modern times and also thought to be the oldest advanced civilization on Earth.

Predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, the stunning temple upends the conventional view of the rise of civilization. Massive carved stones about

Artist Impression of Construction of Göbekli Tepe
Artist Impression of Construction of Göbekli Tepe

11,000 years old, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery.  Each ring has a roughly similar layout: in the center are two large stone T-shaped pillars encircled by slightly smaller stones facing inward. The tallest pillars tower 16 feet and weigh between seven and ten tons.   Some are blank, while others are elaborately carved: foxes, lions, scorpions and vultures abound, twisting and crawling on the pillars’ broad sides.  Gobekli Tepe sits at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent—an arc of mild climate and arable land from the Persian Gulf to present-day Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt—and would have attracted hunter-gatherers from Africa and the Levant.  16 other megalith rings remain buried across 22 acres archaeologists could dig here for another 50 years and barely scratch the surface.

This area is the real origin of complex Neolithic societies. In constructing the temple, once the stone rings were finished, the ancient builders covered them over with dirt. Eventually, they placed another ring nearby or on top of the old one. Over centuries, these layers created the hilltop.  examined at the site are more than 100,000 bone fragments from Gobekli Tepe, often found with cut marks and splintered edges on them, indicative of the butchering and cooking of these animals.  Found were Gazelle bones, and other wild game such as boar, sheep and red deer. Also discovered were bones of a dozen different bird species, including vultures, cranes, ducks and geese.  The abundance of wild game remains is a clear indication that the people who lived here had not managed farms or domesticated animals.  A situation that was about to change.

Inside GobekliTepe
Inside GobekliTepe

Archeologists have found evidence indicating the temple builders were on the verge of a major change in

how they lived. this was the discovery that the environment which they had settled held the raw materials for farming. Including wild sheep, wild grains that could be domesticated. Research at other sites in the region has shown that within 1,000 years of Gobekli Tepe’s construction, settlers had corralled sheep, cattle and pigs. And, at a prehistoric village just 20 miles away, geneticists found evidence of the world’s oldest domesticated strains of wheat; radiocarbon dating indicates agriculture developed there around 10,500 years ago, five centuries after Gobekli Tepe’s construction.

To carve, erect and bury rings of seven-ton stone pillars would have required hundreds of

Strange Animist Carvings
Strange Animist Carvings

workers, all needing to be fed and housed. Hence the eventual emergence of settled communities in the area around 10,000 years ago.  The extensive, coordinated effort to build the temple monoliths literally laid the groundwork for the development of complex societies.  The accepted theory by academia is that it was once farming and domestication of animals was established that social structures and temples of worship were built, but Gobekli Tepe contradicts this assessment.   To carve, erect and bury rings of seven-ton stone pillars would have required hundreds of workers, all needing to be fed

and housed. Hence the eventual emergence of settled communities in the area around 10,000 years ago.

Prior to the discovery of 20 possible writing symbols on the pillars of the temple, it was believed that the first written language was ascribed to the ancient Sumerians in perhaps 3200 BCE. Göbekli Tepe moves this back to at least 10,000 BCE.  signs of a very high level of cooperation spanning almost 3000 years at Göbekli Tepe.  It was also believed that the discovery of the wheel did not surface until 3000 BCE in Sumeria, again Tepe contadicts this with evidence of roads that show tracks formed in what was mud and limestone over 100s if not 1000s of years.   Interestingly, 60 miles northeast of Göbekli Tepe at Karaca Dağgrows grows the closest known ancestor of Einkorn Wheat. This strain has been domesticated and dates back to about the time this site was in peak use.  there is also the earliest evidence of bread-making and beer making.  Prior to this beer-brewing in vats was believed to have started in China about 5000 BCE.

Obscure Glyphs decorate Stone Pillars
Obscure Glyphs decorate Stone Pillars

The most perplexing anomaly that Göbekli Tepe presents is not only just how sophisticated and organised a culture had to be to build and operate such a complex, that all evidence indicates was free of conflict for 3000 years, but what would convince this culture to bury it.  What is even more fascinating is the fact that the technology had to have already existed and the mechanical aptitude in place well in advance of the temple’s initial construction.  this article was made possible by the research of Professor Klaus Schmidt, the chief Researcher and Archeologist on site.  Professor Schmidt recognised the significance of the site after it was largely dismissed by University of Chicago and Istanbul University anthropologists in the 1960s.

Malta’s Antideluvian Temples

Hypogeum in Malta

A most important, ancient, human skull vanished from the Valletta Museum of Archaeology, not long after the death of Professor Sir Themistocles Zammit. The characteristics of this artifact suggest that modern man originates primarily from the Mediterranean and secondary from Africa.

The remnants of 50 temples have been found  on the islands of Malta and nearby Gozo, with 23 in varying states of preservation.  Almost all of these are constructed  using identical architectural methods and principles.  These primarily being a central corridor leading through two or more ellipsoidal chambers heading toward a small altar apse at the far end. The Herculean outer shell of the walls are formed of great blocks of stone propped on end or on edge as orthostats. Internal walls are either of piled rough coralline blocks, or well-cut slabs. All the walls consist of two faces, the space between being packed with earth or rubble. Doorways and passages all use the trilithon principle: two orthostats parallel to each other to support a horizontal lintel. Frequently doorways consist of a ‘porthole’, in which access is through a rectangular hole in the center of a slab. The temples were probably roofed over with beams, brushwood and clay.

Underground Inside Hal Saflieni Hypogeum In Malta

Structures that resemble megalithic temples have been discovered on the sea-bed in Maltese waters. These are currently being studied to establish whether they are actually unique megalithic temples or naturally formed sculptures.  These studies are being carried out by foreign archaeologists, as this discovery has been considered to be of great archaeological importance, and has raised great interest amongst the wider scientific community.

Malta’s antediluvian under-water temple may prove to be the largest known prehistoric complex on Earth.  On the rocky hill above Mnajdra two stones which serve as demarcation stones for the Equinox and Winter Solstice delineate a prehistoric, artificial, under-water structure not far from the coast of Sliema on the Mediterranean Isle of Malta.   What makes these neolithic temples so unique is their true alignment to the major-standstills of the Moon – and not to the Sun as is characteristic with so many of these prehistoric stone calendars dotted around the world.   Only one of the Mnajdra ‘Temples’ was deliberately oriented to the Sun. Although the already documented identification of the remains of a very large prehistoric ‘Temple’ at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea 3 kilometres off Malta’s north-eastern shore, still remains to be evidently confirmed by systematic exploration of that site, not less than three other distinct submarine sites of antediluvian origin have been located by diver-photographers in circumstances that place their existence, if not their interpretation, beyond all reasonable doubt.  Excavations on Gozo, the second isle in the Maltese archipelago and at various prehistoric sites on Malta itself or below its territorial waters still have a very considerable future. Deep-sea fishermen, for example, have already seen what appears to be an ancient stone circle some distance out from St. Paul’s island at Sikka I. Bajda. Excavations first began at Hagar Qim on the Maltese mainland, the site of the oldest and also of the only “temple” so far studied to be constructed out of globigerine instead of coralline limestone.  The first “temples” to be initially excavated in a proper and scientific manner were those at

Tarxien in the early years of the 20th century.

The discovery was made on the 13th of July 1999 at 10 a.m. and was photographed by diver/cameraman  Shaun Arrigo, while the photographer who took  separate on-site still-photos was his brother Kurt.  Professor Zeitlmair, who explained that these structures are two stone-circles.  Also with them are other fallen and broken structures which are long and rectangular, and on a sort of platform. They were found at a depth of approximately  1 km off the East coast of Malta.  Prof. Zeitlmair also said that these structures are full of vegetation, and bare a striking similarity to the temples from the period of Ħaġar Qim.

In the zone where the underwater structures have been found large narrow channels have been observed believed to be some form of cart-ruts, and these resemble those found around on the island.  The discovery of these structures will give rise to diverse archaeological interpretations, and the first implications are that they could be compared with the temples of Ħaġar Qim,

Evidence of Prehistoric Rock Painting

Gantija and Mnajdra, and with the Hypogeum.  This archaeological discovery has also renewed discussions amongst archaeologists regarding the period in which the temples were built. Prof. Zeitlmair sustains that these structures were built a lot earlier than the other megalithic temples in Malta are usually alleged to have been built, and the questions that he is trying to answer are: who really built these structures, when did they actually build them, and for what purpose?

The limestones: gray coralline and, pale globigerina were used in the construction of these temples, both of these stones originated from the Miocene geological period. The construction tools available at the time were hand-axes made of flint and quartzite, knives and scrapers of volcanic obsidian, wedges of wood and stone, hammers of stone and levers of wood. No metal tools of any kind have been found at the temples. Malta has no mineral resources and the flint and obsidian found were most probably imported from the islands of Lipari and Pantelleria off the coast of Sicily. After quarrying the stone blocks were transported to the temple sites via levers and rollers. Once there the rollers were exchanged for stone balls so that the massive stone blocks could be moved in any direction, rather than the limiting forward and backward motion offered with rollers.

Plastered and painted with red ochre the earliest interiors were later embellished with delicately carved spirals on steps and altars. Friezes of farm animals, fish and snakes, and simple pitted dots could also be found. Still evident are wall sockets for wooden barriers or curtains, and niches for ritual activities. Some of the relief decoration is of such delicate work that it is difficult to understand how it could have been carried out using only stone tools.

The Hypogeum Tarxien Malta

Geologists acknowledge the coming and going of some sort of mini-ice age within this specified time-frame.

Complimenting these temples and perhaps the crown jewel of the Island itself is The Hypogeum at Paola.  The building is a subterranean structure dating to the Saflieni period in the island’s prehistory. It is the only prehistoric underground temple in the world. Thought to be originally a sanctuary, it became a necropolis in prehistoric times. The Hypogeum was acceptance by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in the 1980’s.  It was closed to visitors between 1992 and 1996 for restoration works; since it reopened only 80 people per day are allowed entry.

It was discovered by accident in 1902 when workers cutting cisterns for a new housing development broke through its roof. The workers tried to hide the temple at first, but eventually it was found. The study of the structure was first entrusted to Father Manuel Magri of the Society of Jesus, who directed the excavations on behalf of the Museum’s Committee.  Magri died in 1907, before the publication of the report.

The Temples Above the Hypogeum

The Hypogeum is a multi-storey underground labyrinth consisting of chambers, halls, corridors and stairs, which over the centuries were extended deeper and deeper in to the soft limestone.  The first Level in the Hypogeum mirrors the tombs found in Xemxija. Some rooms are natural caves which were later artificially extended. From evidence, one can say that this is the oldest level. The second level only ten metres below the street level was only opened as an extension to the first when the original builders found that was no longer spacious enough to accommodate their needs.  This level shows advanced stone masonry skills for the time. included here are rooms of great import to the original temple worshipers such as the Main Room, the Holy of Holies, and the Oracle Room.

The Main Chamber is carved out of the natural rock and circular in shape . A number of trilithon entrances are present, some blind, and others leading to other chambers. Most of the wall surface is covered in a red wash of ochre. It was from this room that the statuettes of the sleeping lady were recovered. Nowadays these figurines are held in the Museum of Archaeology, in Valletta, Malta’s capital.

The Oracle Room is roughly rectangular and one of the smallest side chambers has the peculiarity of producing a powerful acoustic resonance from any vocalization made inside it. This room has an elaborately painted ceiling, consisting of spirals in red ochre with circular blobs.  The Decorated Room Out of the Oracle’s Room, through the hammer dressed chamber, on the right is another spacious hall, circular, with inward slanting smooth walls, richly decorated in a geometrical pattern. On the right side wall of the entrance is a petrosomatoglyph of a human hand carved into the rock (Agius).  The second level contains a 2 metres deep pit which could have been used for either keeping snakes or collecting alms.  The focal point of Holy of Holies is a porthole within a trilithon, which is in turn framed within a larger trilithon and yet another large trilithon.  The lower story contains no bones or offerings, only water and strongly suggests a storage room possibly for grain.

Ghar Dalam or Cave of Darkness

Initially constructed as a goddess temple during the megalithic period, the most recent temple to be discovered and excavated is Tas Silg. It is unique in that it shows evidence of continued religious use over thousands of years and by various cultures. It was used by Bronze Age Peoples of the first millennium BC and was appropriated as a sanctuary of the Goddess Astarte patron deity of fertility, beauty and love. The temple was established by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, maintained and improved by the Carthaginians, used by the neo-Punic natives as a shrine of Astarte-Tanit, adopted by the Romans as a temple of the goddess Juno, taken over by the Christians in the 4th century AD, and finally became the site of an Arab mosque in the 9th century.

Similiarly several discoveries were also made at Ghar Dalam or “cave of darkness” dating back to the ice age. The remains of dwarf elephant and hippopotamus bones were discovered in these caves. Some of the earliest indicators of human settlement were also found here, dating back over 7,000 years.

Homemade House

Simon Dale's eco-house in Wales

When setting out to build a low impact off-the-grid home it pays to do a little research before hand.  Alternate energy systems are imperative and should be considered thoughtfully.  A combination of systems working together is the best method, much like the principles of perma-culture gardens where each component aids the other.

View of kitchen from loft

First and foremost the owner/builder must have a workable plan that meets all government and personal requirements. This  plan must take into account things like proper ventilation, adequate insulation, structural integrity and protection from the elements. The dwelling must provide warmth, comfort and safety for its occupants.  In the plan, water heating,  refrigeration, food storage, a stove, a bath and a toilet must be factored into the design, as well as which energy sources will power the living system.  These may vary from wind turbines, solar, fuel or battery and may incorporate any or all combinations of these. You may also want to consider installing skylights for natural lighting , a wood-burning stove  with a flue that runs through the building to circulate heat.

Interior frame work

After choosing a suitable location for the house, taking into consideration things like: the Morning and Afternoon suns; soil integrity and drainage; the foundation is leveled and compacted with an excavator, and post positions are marked out.  Dig any trenches and lay any pipes for the plumbing. The base is then covered with gravel for drainage.  This is covered with wooden pallets, and these with straw-bales.  For this type of house, building into the side of a hill is preferable, this provides protection from the elements and earth is the perfect insulator.  It also achieves the lowest visual impact upon the environment and the stone and mud from the diggings can provide supplementary building materials.  The dry stone foundation walls are then laid and the first retaining wall built against the front bank.  Mark out your floor plan on the


Raw structural timber is chainsawed from 30 or so small trees, these can be debarked

Outer frame
Main living area

or left as is to dry in a pile sheltered from the rain.  6 to 12 months is sufficient depending on the climate. Bark makes for a good insulator, provides protection from the elements and is aesthetically pleasing. When choosing your logs the more numerous and tightly packed the rings, the older and better the product. Avoid any that are split.  The basic construction is a series of vertical posts in an oval, the tops of which are connected with horizontals. These horizontal pieces make what is conventionally referred to as a roof-plate or wall-plate and are ‘tennoned’ into the posts.

Example of a reciprocal roof

Post holes are dug at least 3 feet deep into the earth depending on their length. Structural posts are placed in these and a mixture of sand and cement poured.  It is important but not imperative to keep the posts level as this ensures a maximum load bearing integrity. Reciprocal roof rafters fashioned from fallen branches form the framework of the ceiling.  Brace these with thinner, supporting branches overlapping the edges of these to form a roof.  Start with the thicker branches and thin them out as you near the top. Bolt these together and continue until sound.  Water-proof the roof by covering it with a plastic tarp.  Lash or staple this down to the timber frame with a nail-gun. To make a reciprocal roof, the first rafter is propped up temporarily, the next rafter is then laid so that it sits on top of the first one. The third is then laid so it sits on the 2nd where the 1st & 2nd cross. Each rafter sits on another below and has one sitting on top of it. This process continues all the way around until the last rafter slips underneath the first. The prop is then removed so the first rafter sits on the last one. The rafters are then fixed where they cross.

Palletes laid for floor

Straw bale walls have excellent load bearing capacity and are quite suitable for two story houses.  Straw-bales in the floor, walls and roof provide superior insulation.  The bales are stacked like giant bricks and secured to each other with wooden stakes. These stakes can be hammered through the bales or tied in pairs on either sides of the wall. Palettes on the floor beneath the bales will keep them free from damp.  Reclaimed palette timber lain on top of these bales can be sanded back, oiled and used for floor boards. Build the walls with straw-bales inside, The bales are stacked on rough dry stone wall and staked together with raw branches. The inner walls can then be rendered with lime plaster which is breathable and less labor intensive than cement walls.  Lime render is more durable and excellent for exterior use in wet climates, it is strong and sets quickly without cracking.   Pop windows in spaces between the straw-bales that make up the wall. Bog up any gaps that remain with straw then chainsaw trim the bales smooth with round corners.

On the out-side surrounding mud and or dirt and turf is used to cover the roof diminishing again its visual impact upon the environment.  Some other features include a gravity fed water system that is drawn from a nearby spring, with roof water collected for a garden pond; A composting toilet and a fridge that is cooled by air coming up underground through the foundations. The Flue goes through a stone and plaster mound to retain and slowly release heat.

The information in this article was based on  ‘A Low Impact Woodland Home’ from  Very special thanks to the contributors.

Versatile Bamboo

Kyoto bamboo forest

In most Asian countries for thousands of years, Bamboo has been used for making everything from kitchenware to buildings while this invaluable resource has remained largely untapped in the west.

Bamboo fabric is a sleek, silken material with a natural gleam unlike any other organic vegetable

Hypoallergenic bamboo textile

based textile. Bamboo fabric is environmentally friendly compared to cotton yet they are similar materials. Bamboo fiber is a highly water absorbent fabric, is cool in hot climates, draws moisture away from the skin, and acts as a good insulator in cold conditions, it is an all round versatile fabric that comes from the unlikely source , a plant as durable as bamboo.

Bamboo towels are organic as they are grown without the use of pesticides and herbicides;is naturally antibacterial & hypoallergenic; Bamboo towels are quick to absorb moisture,& dry twice as fast as cotton.  Bamboo is a sustainable resource, & their plants produce more oxygen than trees.

Bamboo keyboard

Some common applications of bamboo are furniture, baskets, fence posts, musical instruments, flooring,
water pipes, clothing, food source, gates, houses, gazebos, windbreaks, flood and erosion control, handles for tools, plywood panels, ladders, fruit pickers, paper, alcohol, boats, bridges, tools,medicines, privacy screens, window blinds, plant pots, poles, stakes, scaffolding, decorative screens, bumper bars, & so on & so on.

Bamboo is a member of the grass family and can be found growing north to south in Australia. So hearty a plant that it can even be grown in the snow. There are two types of bamboo – monopodial, or running bamboo, and sympodial, or clumping bamboo. This species does not usually require pesticides or fertilisers & grows well without aid. A sympodial bamboo, a bamboo recommended for the garden has a main branch, with two secondary branches on either side. However, Monopodial bamboo is difficult to maintain, grows unchecked and is largely responsible for bamboo’s bad reputation. As such this species should be avoided. Bamboo types can be differentiated by their branches.
Planting a bamboo in the ground requires minimal soil preparation, growing best in well drained clay soil with running water moving past the roots, but not sitting around it. Over watering the plant will kill it.

Some examples of popular bamboos include the garden variety Buddha Belly Bambusa,  Tre Gai which has a  3″ Diameter and is a Structural Bamboo used in housing.  Another type and the most popular is Timor Black a cosmetic Bamboo found in most gardens.

Timorese Black Bamboo

Most bamboos provide edible bamboo shoots as a supplement vegetable all year round. Incredibly versatile it can be put to use in a variety of ways – as a screening plant, or a windbreak to beautify a garden; a building material to provide shelter and housing, as a fabric for clothing, the diversity of use and species available encourages cross-breeding and avoids monoculture problems. The clumping varieties, the most manageable & hence more popular, can be grown in the ground, or in a pot as a feature plant & can be used to beautify or protect in a utilitarian or cosmetic use.
Culturally a bamboo grove is said to be the dwelling place of the Lord Buddha & is a sacred space for peace and tranquility. Found in most gardens are: Bambusa vulgaris ‘Wamin’, commonly known as Buddha’s belly – after the shape of its inter-nodes. This variety is a clumping bamboo best used as an ornamental feature plant after 5 to 7 years it will only be about 2 to 3 meters wide & 3 to 4 metres tall.

Buddha belly

Bambusa lako, called Timor black because of its black stems & green stripe on the mature clumps or stems is a bamboo from East Timor. It emerges green and as it ages turns black with green stripes.
Bamboo’s rotation & output of annual produce outstrips any other naturally grown resource, even timber, which boasts the most accessible & reclaimable of all building supply. As an economic building material, If today you plant three or four structural bamboo plants, then in 4 or 5 years you will have mature clumps, & in 8 years you will have enough material to build a comfortable, low-cost house.

Here is an example of a simple but effective joinery system developed by Marcelo Villegas.. The bronze washers are also available in aluminum or steel.

Joinery system developed by Marcelo Villegas.
Joinery system developed by Marcelo Villegas

Darmstadt Germany 2005, The Feng Shui office building designed by architects, Susanne Körner and Tillman Schäberle has a roof construction on 33 supporting bamboo columns. This structure is the first German house with a load bearing bamboo construction. Such structures have been made possible by the development of a unique joining technique. The walls were constructed with compressed straw covered with an organic plaster. The thermal insulated hemp timber roof was

Bamboo House

covered with a mowable lawn.
Below is a woven Bamboo house module designed by Danish architect Søren Korsgaard. Using the unique flexibility and strength of bamboo, sophisticated weaving techniques have been developed among the myriad of other beautiful methods for treating bamboo, and in a much larger scale this woven bamboo house takes this tradition and applies it to modern architecture. Walls, floors and ceiling seamlessly ebb & flow together in one continuous surface, that also can be shaped into sitting areas and shelves, allowing for a dynamic and unique architectural experience.

Eco-City Siberia

Vacationing tourists wanted for Glass Domed Utopia in Russian Freezer.

Deep Beneath Siberia’s Frozen Tundra movers and shakers of the old soviet union maneuver to build their glass domed utopia.  Planned for 2012 its designers envision Eco-City to populate 100,000 people.  Plans were released last month by the Russians for the construction of the underground city in the Mir Diamond mine, the second largest hole on the Planet.  At a quarter of a mile wide and over 1,700ft deep the site is planned as a multi-story megalopolis covered  by a vast glass dome with natural light entering through the central core.   Divided into 3 main levels of vertical farms, residency, recreational areas and forests Eco-City will be encapsulated by a photovoltaic glass dome that will harvest enough solar energy to power the complete development.

mir Diamond Mine Crater
proposed location for eco-city Siberia

A once prosperous and thriving industry, demand  for the Mirny mine’s superior-quality stones was so popular  that diamond giant De Beers was forced to buy them to keep the market artificially inflated.  When the mine closed in 2001, it left behind little more than a tiered hole in the ground reminiscent of some barren alien landscape.  A group of architects from AB Elis Ltd. led by Nickolav Lvutemosiv want to transform the 2 million-square-meter space into a domed metropolis powered by a strong if not short term Siberian summer.

Domed city

The Siberian Winters make the landscape on the surface  inhospitable, and in the Summer it fairs no better. the surface beneath the Earth is a natural insulator from the extreme temperatures, and offers unsurpassed protection and security.  As fantastic as the concept may sound underground housing though novel, is neither new or unique. It was postulated by the science fiction writer Jules Verne in The Underground City and preceded J.R.R  Tolkien in the Hobbit.  Churchill followed during WWII along with the rest of England as they scurried to the Subways and The craft of constructing cities Underground has been quietly gaining momentum since.  As it would have it , underground housing has become a trendy lifestyle choice in extreme environments such as the Australian outback, Tunisia, and North & South Poles.

architectral plans
Eco-city Siberia

There are obvious benefits of underground living. In a world of  regular natural

Domed City proposed for 2020

disasters, it offers resistance to extreme cold and heat, and to hurricanes and tornadoes and everything else nature can throw at the human race. But a more immediate advantage is its energy efficiency. Living underground can conserve up to 80 per cent in energy costs, while solar power can eliminate energy bills in their entirety. Eco-City could very well become the solution to alleviating the urban sprawl that threatens regional ecologies. Coupled with its carbon-neutral status, and year  round growing season, the World has the makings of a perfect eco-solution for people and nature. It offers total privacy, security and earth is a natural sound absorber. What a perfect place to hide. Though one  apparent downside may be the  view or lack of, this is easily solved with skylights, light tubes and virtual windows, and  internet cam feeds to provide any vista that piques the owners’ interest.

Anamorphic Architecture

Zoomorphic Housing
Roger Dean Mushroom House

If you were an amoeba, your neighborhood was a healthy human body & your job was to travel around this body, what sort of day would you have?

There are no straight lines in Nature & this is never more prevalent than in the free-form organic machinations of Bio-organic architects.

Houses that look like mushrooms, that crawl across the ground like Moss. These extra terrestrial


living spaces that seem to have materialized out of alchemical spells gone awry are in fact very human & closer to the natural world than first appearances might suggest. Not unlike cellular growth, these houses are designed & built so that they follow the basic principles of nature. A House or living space to the Organic Architect should grow out of the natural environment like a plant or animal, & blend with its surroundings, not stick out of the ground like a foreign object.


These zoomorphic environments that incorporate fractal principles; that lean toward an alchemical geometry, are not only possible but a practical alternative to the increasingly inhospitable design of today’s living spaces. New materials such as sprayable concrete, fero-cement, paper-crete & foam core rebar combined with a system of inflatable forms are bringing these decidedly abstract freeform organic houses to life. This is a building system that affords structural design the ability to disappear into the wilderness so completely that it is not just bio-mimicry but symbiosis.Free Form Architecture

The freeform organic design movement, like most that fly in the face of convention has its advocates as well as its detractors. Bio-organic architecture has its roots in the works of artist architects Antonio Gaudi, Hector Guimard & Baron Victor Horta-all leading figures in the Art Nouveau movement. Later this tree would bear fruit through the works of Roger & Martin Dean, who’s anamorphic alien constructs were made popular by bands Yes, Osibisa & Rare Earth.

K.Kellog & Eugene Tsui incorporate a system of compositional hybridization into the software of their design processes creating post modern eclectic living systems that employ wood, stone & other natural resources into their aesthetic. Peter Vetsch a Swiss Designer who’s rap sheet reads like the hide of the Illustrated Man, boasts the largest number of built structures, having developed a whole community. Vetsch is the more conservative of the movement, & as such is most revered by the Architectural mainstream. His buildings are also the most publically accessible, given that he makes limited use of inner fixtures & furnishings, allowing the Resident freer voice in shaping their living environment.

Roger Dean Inspired
Zoomorphic Living Environments

The intellectual technology involved in the design & manufacture of these structures draw from the well of intuition & the subconscious. Its laws & principles based on a geometry of an inner mathematics who’s equations can only be truly realized through the Artist’s vision. This defies scientific analysis & the conventions of professional design. The curvilinear zoomorphic abstract shapes of its make-up contrast against the rectilinear geometry dominating conventional architecture, one of those exploding heresies that produce a paradigm shift that shatters the conventions of popular thought.

These principles are not just confined to the outer & inner structure of the living space, but can also be applied to the everyday mechanisms of modern living. The nature of these new materials & design philosophy, are such that they can be wrapped around a dish washer, or a refrigerator; A bathroom sink or vanity mirror. They can transform the banal & mundane into something quite majickal, encapsulating & enriching one’s life experience. The creator is truly limited only by the breadth & width of their imagination

Architecture has the most profound, immediate, and far-reaching consequences of any area of human activity. Whereby nature is the sublime thumbprint of a divine intelligence, Housing & Construction are the indelible stain of our species pursuit to control & to dominate our environment.

What Freeform organic design achieves, where no other building discipline before it has, is address our immediate relationship to our natural world. Where Traditional Architectural principles relied heavily on the display of dominance & power of humanity over nature, bio-organic engineering is its very antithesis. These structures are a part of nature & not apart from. It lets the natural world in, not close it out, so that human experience is in symbiosis with the living planet.

World Architectural Building Design

More importantly, these designs are not restricted to the eccentric grass roots owner/builder, they also appeal to the high end corporate market, piquing the interest of Big Government & Big Business. These aesthetics- like any good technology who’s time has arrived can be injected into the mainstream popular landscape. That is not to say that these very same aesthetics cannot be applied in a more conventional building plan. The versatility of this design concept is restricted only by imagination, budget & structural integrity of materials. In time these buildings will be the norm & not on the periphery & the architecture that litters the landscape today will be seen just as our ancestors’ caves are seen now, as archaic, primitive, & most of all-made redundant by a superior living system.


Shape Memory And Iron Palladium Alloys

D.A.R.P.A logo

In a highly ambitious materials development study commissioned by The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), experiments conducted by materials scientists for the American military are successfully creating metals that can not only change shape upon the application of an energy field, but can autonomously ‘self-actuate’, producing intelligent alloys that have their own memory and motion capabilities.

DARPA identifies the research as the Development of Compact Hybrid Actuators based on Ferromagnetic Poly-crystal (Fe-Pd) material, & describes the product as “a robust compact actuator based on polycrystalline ferromagnetic shape memory alloy (FSMA) materials.“ Other possible smart materials technologies being explored for integration into military systems include shape memory alloys, piezoelectric actuators, magneto-rheological fluids and solids, self-healing polymers and coatings.

The goal is to develop and exhibit workable composite materials and processes to sustain the manufacture of multiple military morphing applications. The Military intends to develop a template prototype for improved function in vehicle bodies ready for integration with their existing hardware for operational use. In the process, DARPA are applying a specialized catalogue of smart materials technologies, such as shape memory polymers, self-actuating composites, and dynamic syntactic foams. They also employ smart materials, engineering design, fabrication, and other supporting technologies to meet the goals and requirements of the military industrial complex.

Called Iron-Palladium alloys, these metals possess super-elasticity & shape-shifting capabilities, augmented further by the integration of more ‘intelligent’

Nokia Shape memory phone

components into the alloy, allows it to generate its own energy field to reshape. The metal itself incorporates an ‘electromagnetic driving unit’ and a ‘position sensor with a central unit.’ The Fe-Pd spring actuator is just 15cm in length by a diameter of 3 cm, yet this spring will become an intelligent autonomous machine with a remarkable tensile strength for its own ‘shape memory’.

Optimized for best performance around one operating point & similar in architecture to biological systems, these new actuators are like individual elements arranged in parallel-series assemblies, but use very different building blocks. Upon the generation of an electric current or magnetic field these alloys will, with no moving parts, change shape & rapidly. They are termed ‘compact hybrid actuators’, or ‘living metals’ & are designed to mimic living systems in their versatility and dynamism through the integration of advanced nano-technologies. DARPA’s smart structures engineering team are focused on integrating multiple smart material technologies with conventional actuation mechanisms, and on developing realistic morphing structure concepts for theatre applications. The research will help define near-term morphing abilities, help identify the next enabling materials technologies necessary to round out structural morphing composites, and predict the exponential growth of morphing capabilities.

Shape memory car

With the use of combustible fuel sources, the small elements comprising the actuation system achieve high power and energy density, allowing efficient energy conversion via oscillatory and resonant processes. Rather than by valves or power transistors, the power produced is modulated at the individual element level, providing effective efficient power output with less input. Mass production methods via a use of modular architecture where many similar or identical elements are used, allows cost effective manufacture as well as economies of scale. This approach, characterized by the use of many elements systematically interconnected in terms of structure, physical effort, and information is termed Organismic Systems by the scientific community & incorporates the basic principles of nano-technology.

These metals built at the molecular level are essentially machines with complex internal systems & structures that mimic organic ones. The metal alloy actuators are essentially autonomous, the nano-machines incorporated into the metal alloys utilize energy sources at the ‘individual’ level & assign the material characteristics generally attributed to extraterrestrial craft. There are many magnetic anomalies reported by witnesses and researchers that ascribe certain attributes to this material, that have a connection with UFO technology. and a correlation between changing form and magnetic field effects appears to be an important consideration.

Shape memory wing foil

Their potential application for the U.S. military has driven them to funding a variety of related research programs exploring the full range of options proposed by private-sector aerospace consortiums including Boeing, M.I.T., Moog and Lockheed Martin in conjunction with several university departments in receipt of grants from the U.S. Military. The entire project is endorsed by the US Army Research Office, the Office Of Naval Research, NASA Langley Research Center, & the Space Operations Vehicle Technology Office, AFRL/VAS at Wright Patterson AFB.

Some of the projects being explored include: the research & development of assault vehicles with self-repairing armored shells that react like living organisms with noise cancellation capabilities to ‘cloak’ them on an auditory level; in-flight navigation, guidance and control systems for smart bombs that lie dormant, that can identify a target through face recognition; shape-changing bombers that transform into jet fighters, including morphing aeroforms in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and fighter aircraft; advanced optical systems for satellite technology, as well as sonar-absorbing materials for submarines with respect to the sonar deductibility of torpedoes; & ‘exo-skeletons’ incorporating neural transmission technologies between the soldier’s brain waves and his living metal smart skin.

The power to drive the actuators is portable, and could be worn like a back-pack by soldiers. Like ‘nano-technology’ designed at a molecular level, the intelligent ‘biological’ actuators have purpose-built machines within them. Placed in the context of brain implants that can pick up neurological information directly, this information could then readily be transferred to the ‘morphing metal’ interface that will be capable of adapting to the complex commands delivered by the brain. other applications include the development of prosthetic limbs made of these alloys that receive direct instruction from the wearer’s brain, & behave like real limbs & muscles.

Nitinol invented by metallurgist William Buehler

Highly specialized privatized materials research companies, commissioned to develop this technology, in their design and engineering efforts will focus on integrating new adaptive materials technologies into standard composite armatures. CRG are developing a preliminary prototype design of an adaptive wing structure. By establishing a processing approach to fabrication, validating these fabrication processes to demonstrate a working segment of a morphing wing to prove feasibility, the company hopes to have a working integrated system of manufacture by project’s end. Design considerations for the adaptive wing include wing mass, primary structure, leading and trailing edges, airfoil balance, seamless skin, internal structure, actuation mechanisms, and environmental stability.

Aurora X-plane

These programs will establish the technology necessary to assemble deployable morphing aircraft and other innovative adaptive structure concepts vital to maintain military advantage. In addition to enhancing the aerospace industry’s system platform capabilities, this technology will also enhance the ability to broaden their system capabilities for multiple Department of Defense (DOD) applications planned in the near and far term. This advancement will improve performance for other current or future applications. The development of this technology from prototype to integration and manufacturing will demonstrate the superiority of the Military in the fields of research, development and materials innovation, as well as maintain funding.