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"Every building on Cape Cod—residential, commercial, religious—looks like this one, or some modified version of it. There are tens of thousands of them, and they are very popular. They show us, at a glance, just how far the human animal has come in its 10,000 year quest for an appropriate means of shelter. To build in that way requires that the native New England forest be stripped away and replaced, after construction is complete, by a toxic green lawn and plants native to some other region.

(Click on the image below to read Mac's comments in his own handwriting and to see more illustration detail.)
Mac's version of Cape Cod Architecture
on this page
  • Underground Art Gallery
  • Terran Alliance Center
  • Locust Hill
  • Sidwell House
  • Gas Station
  • Cape Code Home
  • Cherry Hill Office
  • Urban Housing
  • Parking Lot
  • Wilderness Scale

  • "But now another type of building is emerging: one that actually heals the scars of its own construction. It conserves rainwater—and fuel—and it provides a habitat for creatures other than the human one. Maybe it will catch on, maybe it won't. We'll see." ——Malcolm Wells, 2002.

    Examples of Malcolm Wells' Architectural Designs

    Click on the images for an enlarged view.

    Underground Art Gallery

    "My wife, Karen, and I own a small gallery here on Cape Cod. In it, she produces and sells her art, and I run a one-man architectural office. The building is covered with a deep
    layer of earth in which native plants of all kinds are thriving.
    Mac's rendition of the Underground Art Gallery. before it was built
    A painted rendition of the Underground Art Gallery,
    before it was built
    Not surprisingly, we call the building the Underground Art Gallery."

    Terran Alliance Cultural Center

    The mission of the Terran Alliance is to enhance community — locally, regionally, globally — to amplify learning and a sharing of traditionsand values linking people of all races and all lands.

    Locust Hill Multi-purpose Building

    At Raven Rocks, Locust Hill is a multi-purpose underground building. Designed to house six adults, and include two greenhouses, space for conferences, a library and small museum, a business office for Raven Rocks Concrete, wood-working and auto repair shops in the wings, a buried cold room, and a chiropractic treatment room.

    Building and design notes:
    - Clivus Multrum composting toilets make fertilizer of solid wastes.
    - Winter heat is supplied through south-facing window glass.
    - The structure's mass stores nearly 1,000,000 Btu's of energy while permitting the temperature of the building to rise only one degree.
    - Wings at each end of the building use a passive thermosiphoning solar wall.
    - The wings, while fulfilling part of the retaining wall requirements for this earth-covered structure, will house a one-car auto repair shop at one end, a small woodworking shop at the other.
    - A structure buried adjacent to the building, withdirect access underground to the kitchen, employ passive annual cold storage via air tubes thatl draw cold winter air down into this space by natural convection.
    - Two arrays of solar panels convert sunshine to electricity.

    Sidwell House in Ohio

    Mary and Rich SidwellThis two-story, passive solar heated buiding is home to Mary and Rich Sidwell, and is the other underground building at at Raven Rocks. Building began in 1987.

    This design was first published in Underground Buildings, and now appears on the cover of that book's republication as The Earth-Sheltered House: An Architect's Sketchbook (Chelsea Green Publishing Company).

    Building and design notes:
    - Heat is provided by passive solar means, by sunlight passing through the greenhouse glass, and being stored in the concrete structure. A small super-efficient wood stove, built around a catalytic combustor to slash pollution, will provide what little back-up heat the Sidwell house will require.
    - The Duraco frames on the south-facing windows combine exceptionally insulative vinyl frames with triple pane glazing that can be 'popped out' easily and quickly.
    - Clivus Multrum composting toilets are employed to reduce water usage by 40%.
    - The second floor and roof are made of economical pre-cast concrete planks, called Flexicore, and offer exceptional fire resistance.
    Dirt being put onto the Sidwell home- Heated gray water from sinks and bathrooms is filtered through the planting beds in the greenhouse, which eliminates the need for septic tanks (along with the composting toilets), and provides added warmth, moisture, and fertilization for plant roots.

    Gas Station

    Here is an idea Mac has for converting flimsy gas stations to functional greenspaces:


     Cape Cod Home


    Cherry Hill, NJ Architectural Office

    This sunny underground office was built adjacent to a 6-lane highway in N.J.

    Urban Housing

    Here is an idea Mac has for revitalizing urban developments with earth-sheltered housing:


    Parking Lot


    Wilderness Scale

    Mac developed this idea to rate the environmental-friendliness of a parcel of land or a building. This scale can help guide in your design process. Click on the scale at right and it will open a larger version which you can print.


    Many thanks to the interesting and enlightening people
    and web sites that provided source material for this page:

    Paul Giambarba, Chelsea Green & Solarnet.org,
    Raven Rocks Preservation, and Terran Alliance,

    Please distribute the content contained in this web site.
    When you do, please give full credit to this web site address or to Malcolm Wells.

    Copyright © 2002 Wendy M. Mathias
    Almost all images, sketches, and "handwritten" text are copyright Malcolm Wells.
    Questions about this web site? Write the webmaster.