BIOGRAPHY - You can help!
A biography of Malcolm Wells is in the works. If you
knew Mac personally, and would like to contribute a
story of your personal interaction with him, including
your correspondence, photos, etc., please submit
do you describe a man?
Wells was more than an activist, more than a professional,
more than a description on a web site or inside the back of
For those who knew him, he loved the land and the people who
live on it. His spirit was generous beyond expectation, witty
without effort, and humble beyond the norm. In the few months
since we became acquainted, he joyously surprised me on numerous
occasions with small gifts: mini-paintings in his letters,
a sachet of dirt from his roof to pun-fully demonstrate finding
"common ground", and refusal to accept my money
for the books he carefully inscribed and sent to me. I only
knew Mac personally for a few years, but it was an enjoyable,
thought-provoking journey. I never Mac in person, but enjoyed
sharing letters, kindnesses, and generosities.
example of Mac's sense of humor after his newspaper
column was canceled.
Here is a visual example
of Mac's sort of humor. In another example,
Mac likened himself to Methuselah,the Bible's oldest
character (900+ years).
should you get to know Malcolm Wells and his works?
is arguably the father of modern earth-sheltered architecture.
He did more to promote gentle building, energy conservation,
and treading lightly on this earth, than any other proponent
of geotecture, terratecture, or whatever you want to call
earth-sheltered architecture. Almost every book you read about
building underground will mention Mac as the author's inspiration.
His writings and illustrations
are filled with a dry, self-deprecating humor. His wisdom
and perception, though often tinged with the bitter taste
of difficult-to-swallow truths, tenderly challenges the way
we think about how we live. You'll see the world differently
after encountering Mac.
"In 1964, after 10 years spent spreading corporate asphalt
on America in the name of architecture, I woke up one day
to the fact that the earth's surface was made for living plants,
not industrial plants. I've been an underground architect
ever since. I live on Cape Cod, and I'm writing this in the
silence of the Underground
To see a 2-page biography in Mac's own handwriting, click
on the document images at right, as originally written to
Chris at Raven
Rocks on March 22, 2002.
Here are some more comments, written in Recovering America:
A More Gentle Way to Build:
was born in 1926, became an architect in 1953, and began to
design underground buildings in 1964. Now, 35 years later,
in spite of my having lectured at almost every U. S. architectural
school, been on network
t.v., and written 15 or 20 books on the subject, underground
architecture is still virtually unknown. So much for my effectiveness."
these comments in Mac's own handwriting.
Answers Some Questions
Why do you publish books yourself?
"I publish them myself not only to keep more of the money
and keep the prices down, but also to stay in closer touch
with people who share my interests.
My other books have sold over 120,000 copies."
don't we see underground houses all around us?
Photo © Paul Giambarba
"You tell me. The United States can today boast only
three or four thousand earth dwellings. Inertia was no doubt
the main cause of such a poor showing but the anti-environment
mood of the Eighties had its effect too.
"Now there's a new enthusiasm, based, this time, on less
man-centered concerns. People want to do more than just save
energy. They want to lessen the physical impact of architecture
on the land. Every construction project causes environmental
trauma; only underground architecture can heal its own earth
speaks about underground architecture:
"...A building should consume its own waste, maintain
itself, match nature's pace, provide wildlife habitat, moderate
and weather and be beautiful. That's a series of pass/fail
letting our structure hog all the sunlight wherever we go,
we stamp out much of the natural riches of our land. Weather
is not kind to building materials. They need to be protected
by a blanket of earth. Otherwise, ice cracks the freeways,
water rusts bridge structures, floods rage because
water cannot soak into impervious ground...."
"...We live in an era of glitzy buildings and trophy
houses: big, ugly, show-off monsters that standor I
should say stompon land stripped bare by the construction
work and replanted with toxic green lawns. If the buildings
could talk they would be speechless with embarrassment, but
most of us see nothing wrong with them, and would, given the
opportunity, build others like them, for few of us realize
that there's a gentler way to build.
"It's called underground.
"As we press on with our struggle to pave American from
sea to sea with asphalt, concrete, and above-ground buildings,
it's nice to know that underground architecture, while attracting
more interest and activity each year, is still so small a
branch of the construction industry that Mr. and Mrs. Landwrecker
need not worry about it.... "
Mac's Professional History
was an architect, writer, illustrator, draftsman, lecturer,
cartoonist, columnist, and solar consultant. He wrote for
Futurist magazine, High
Country News, The
Cape Cod Times ("Notes from the Underground"
columnist), and other magazines. His foreword and intro appears
in such books as The
Natural House Book, Daylighting
for Sustainable Design, and the The
complete earth-sheltered house, and Rob Roy's The
Complete Book of Underground Houses: How to Build a Low-Cost
He illustrated several books including:
Innocence in Brazil, How
the Shaman Stole the Moon, Y2K
& Y-O-U, Charles G. Woods' A
Natural System of House Design and The
complete earth-sheltered house, Rob Roy's Mortgage
Free!, and various children's books.
Mac's Unending Gifts
In addition to his watercolor paintings and ink illustrations,
Mac also painted with latex house paints. Here are some samples
of works. The Addison
Gallery, in Orleans, MA, is showing his work. Click
on an image to see a more detailed version:
Will the real Malcolm Wells
please stand up?
If you are looking for underground architecture, these guys
would NOT be the ones to do it for you:
Wells: frontman for a band called The Soul Searchers;,
likes to swing dance, play harmonica
Wells: Advertisement Manager, The Motor Ship
Wells: Deputy Chief Executive of Tourism, Tasmania
Wells: the greatest British detective ever
Wells: developer of A Modeling Method for high school
Wells: Master of Arts Candidate, Department of Urban
Wells: author of Kingston upon Hull Trolleybuses
Wells: 1997 Barnes Award winner, the Newfoundland
and Labrador Teachers' Association
Wells: Managing Director Europe, XLPrint Europe
Wells II: 1999 INSPRAs Achievement Award, Indianapolis
Wells: State Bar of Georgia, Young Lawyers Division,
Aspiring Youth Program Co-Chair
Wells: UK Offshore Operators Association
Wells: Accountant and Small Business Specialist, Malcolm
Wells Accounting Solutions
Wells: Transport manager, TONG ENGINEERING, manufacturer
of vegetable handling machinery
Wells: Langstone Junior School Governor, Langstone,
Wells: media director, Devonport Triathlon Association,
Wells: Broadway Producer and Performer
Wells: Sir Wilfred Grenfell College Principals
List Winter 2000
Wells: lives in West Virginia, member of Smoky Mountain
Wells: Valley Business Equipment, Labrador North Chamber
of Commerce Membership
Malcolm Wells Robinson: Order of Military Merit, Canadian
Regular and Reserve Forces
Malcolm Wells: character in The Bat,
a 1959 Vincent Price movie
Wells Mackenzie, M.D: OB/GYN in New Hampshire
Order Mac's Books
Y ou can order his books
Please distribute the content contained in this web site.
When you do, please give full credit to this web site address or to
Copyright © 2002 Wendy M. Mathias
Almost all images, sketches, and "handwritten" text are
copyright Malcolm Wells.
Questions about this web site? Write the webmaster.