Architectural Lessons From the 60s Counterculture

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The Om Dome

Alastair Gordon writes a wonderful article in Architectural Record, suggesting that it is a good time to look back at the seeds of green architecture, the Drop Cities, geodesic domes, Arcosanti and other strange and spaced-out shelters.

"It was just there, somehow, in the air, the back-to-nature vibe, the need to make shelter, the need to uncomplicate one's life. There was scrounging and recycling of old materials, living off the spoils of straight society. "Trapped inside a waste economy, man finds an identity as a consumer," wrote Bill Voyd. "Once outside the trap, he finds enormous resources at his disposal—free." Voyd and other pioneers at Drop City learned to chop the metal tops out of junked cars and shape them into building panels. Other free-form builders learned to work with bottles, mounds of earth, mud bricks, old tires, and bales of hay."


A 1967 dome at Drop City is among the first solar-panel-heated homes. Photo by Clarke Richert.

He concludes with a point that is relevant to the entire green movement, not just architecture and design.

"Notions of sustainability, ephemeralization, simplifying life, and reducing our carbon footprint have come full circle and seem more urgent today than ever before. But while the shaggy '60s may be up for review, they come with a haircut, shorn as they are of the social/cultural revolution that drove them. And the question remains, can you have one without the other? True sustainability without sweeping social change? True green without revolution? Consumers beware: When one hears companies like Exxon, General Motors, and Merck Chemical talking green, then you know it's probably time to check in with Alice and slide back down the rabbit hole." ::Architectural Record