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Michael Reynolds

Michael Reynolds is an architect based in New Mexico and a proponent of “radically sustainable living.” He has been a forceful and controversial critic of the profession of architecture for its failure to deal with the amount of waste that building design creates.

After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in 1969, Reynolds began his provocative work almost immediately. His thesis was published in Architectural Record in 1971 and the following year he built his first house from recycled materials. The structures built under his direction utilize everyday trash items like aluminum cans and plastic bottles. Instead of using conventional (and energy-consuming) recycling methods, however, Reynolds takes the discarded item and uses it as-is. His Thumb House, built in 1972, used beer cans wired together into “bricks,” which were mortared together and then plastered over. (The brick design was awarded a U.S. patent in 1973.)

Reynolds calls this practice “Earthship Biotecture” and has dedicated his career to it. He cites as an epiphany the moment when he realized that any object, be it a pop bottle or an old tire, could become powerful and durable insulation when it was filled with dirt. He has written five books on the subject.

Soon he was building and selling his experimental homes while continuing to use trial and error to improve them. The “Earthships” over time incorporated features designed to make them comfortable to live in while existing off the grid. Solar panels and geothermal cooling were added. The homes caught the imagination of celebrities and environmental activists. Actors Dennis Weaver and Keith Carradine each commissioned Reynolds to build high-end Earthships for them. With the rise in concern over global warming, Reynolds has become a graying prophet of the green movement. A 2007 documentary, “Garbage Warrior,” celebrates his life and work.

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Garbage Warrior – Michael Reynolds Sustainable Living
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Fabulous Picture Show – Garbage Warrior
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Garbage Warrior
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Earthship. Build a house out of tires and dirt!
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The Garbage Warrior talk at the Little Yarra Steiner School
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