The Phoenix is a fantastical castle complete with turrets and towers, rising above the sage-covered desert landscape.
Full of whimsy, warmth, color and texture, this earthship shows that sustainability can co-exist with luxury and comfort. The house itself is a work of art with its custom tin light fixtures, stained glass windows, and light-filled bathing areas made from multi-colored glass bottle walls. A woodstove adds extra warmth and provides backup to the solar-powered heat.
The centerpiece of the living room is a waterfall that pours over a built-in gas fireplace. All the water used in the house is caught from the sky. A tropical jungle-filled greenhouse softens the air, bringing humidity and warmth into the house even when it is cold and dry outside.
The greenhouse is complete with fish-ponds that hold tilapia that can be eaten for dinner. Tangerine trees provide fruit for margaritas and there are banana trees and tropical birds. Everywhere the sound of water flowing from the greenhouse fountains is heard. Although the greenhouse is beautiful, it serves a purpose too: feeding the residents and recycling gray and black water from the home.
The castle-like exterior includes a dramatic fin roof detail made entirely from old appliances and the head of a dragon at the entry way. Outside patios extend the living space in warm months with fire pits for cooking. A chicken coop with tire nests borders the patio.
“We have artists on our crew that have made this home beautiful,” says Earthship Biotecture founder Michael Reynolds. “This is a ship is that is going to sail and take care of the people in it. We are making a statement that we need to get closer to the earth, otherwise we are not in touch with it and ruin it. The earth is the thing that takes care of us. We want to encounter the earth, not ignore it or abuse it. Here you are living with water, fire, fruit, fish and birds; you are living with the earth.”
The concept of the earthship was originated in Taos 50 years ago by Reynolds. He arrived in New Mexico in 1969 and began experimenting with using cans and tires to build walls. The first earthship was built in Cañon, two miles east of Taos Plaza in the 1970’s.
The most extensive collection of earthships which includes the Phoenix, is found in the Greater World Community, west of Taos. The community has 340 acres of common land and is located near to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Eventually there will a total of 130 homes with about 90 built currently. Individual lots at the earthship community do not touch, ensuring that there will always be corridors for wildlife to move through.
When Reynolds first began to build with recycled materials like cans, bottles and tires, he was called a disgrace to the architectural community and had a hard time getting the approval of building inspectors who had never seen such an approach to building. However, now all over the world, there is new interest in using materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill.
“We are in the right place at the right time with the right ideas,” observes Reynolds. “People are recognizing that we need to do something: we have mountains of tires and garbage. Our idea is coming of age and is now in demand with people coming from all the over the world to stay in these earthship nightly rentals.”
In the past, people came just for the experience of staying a night in an earthship. Now, they want to buy them because many are worried about where their heat and energy are coming from, according to Reynolds.
Although the first interest came from young people on the cutting edge of environmental consciousness, now everyone is taking an interest, including couples who want to retire and not worry about energy bills and young families whose children are being born in earthships. Under the nightly rental program, the Phoenix has been used for weddings and birthdays and visited by school groups there to learn about earthship technology. Some owners of earthships who don’t live in them full time keep their homes in the nightly rental pool managed by Biotecture.
As Reynolds points out, the earthship lets its residents experience the phenomenon of the planet to sustain their lives.
“In the earthship, we encounter the sun to get heat and electricity; encounter the rain to get water. We are encountering the biology and physics of the planet to provide the things that previously people depended on the government and corporations to provide for them.”
Earthships around the world
Although earthships originated in New Mexico, Reynolds is testing the concept elsewhere now, including Indonesia, Europe, Argentina, China, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. As part of the commitment of Earthship Biotecture to making the world a better place, Reynolds was recently in Puerto Rico where he is working on earthship project that was begun in response to the devastation of Hurricane Maria two years ago. Working with locals and visiting volunteers, Reynolds is building a community center that will focus on the education of sustainable practices.
To teach the concepts for building earthships, an academy is offered on-line and there are on-site academies scheduled in Puerto Rico this coming May and in Haiti in August.
A pathway to the future
Reynolds says that the best way to learn about earthships is to stay in one on a cold winter night and experience it for yourself.
“My dream is that every man, woman, and child will have access to this way of life; to a pathway to encounter the phenomenon of the earth, so that they can have a life for themselves,” says Reynolds. “The earthship can transcend politics and economics. It is a beginning.”
About the house
The Phoenix is 5,300 square feet with three bedrooms and two baths. It sits on two acres in the Greater World Community at 38 Gorge View Road. It is currently available for nightly rentals. Learn more at the Earthship Biotecture visitor center or call (575) 613-4409 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.earthshipglobal.com.
The home is offered for sale by Ellen Lerner of New Mexico Mountain Properties. Visit www.highmountainproperty.com or contact Lerner at (575) 770-4140.