Posts tagged james dekorne
The Passive Solar Dome Greenhouse

The term "global warming" was first used in 1975, two years after the first oil shock slugged the U.S. economy. Four years later, a second shock coincided with the Iranian Revolution. That same year, John Fontanetta and Al Heller published The Passive Solar Dome Greenhouse Book A thrift-store edition, bright green and yellow, fell into my hands a few years ago. It was the result of a research project at Fordham University called FUSES: Fordham Urban EcoSystem. The project seemed to stir up some real excitement -- my first edition copy has a quote from Buckminster himself on the back, bolstered by New York Magazine and CBS. 

At times dismissed as kitsch, or embarrassing in its earnestness, I've long had an affinity for seventies design. Ken IsaacsBuckminster Fuller, Steve BaerPaolo SoleriLloyd KahnJersey DevilThe Prickly Mountain boys -- instead of just fiddling with the formal aspects, they tackled architecture in all its complexities, approaching it with craftsman's sensibility and a DIY spirit. They questioned assumptions about community, social justice, building techniques, and environmental responsibility. The results were wildly uneven. It was kinetic. It was weird. It didn't cost much, and a lot of it didn't last. Today, warped by digital speed, economic instability, and climate change, strains of that old anarchic spirit are punching through again. 

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Last year, the lady gave me a book for my birthday. At first, I didn't know what to think; it was a small, unassuming paperback with an indecipherable title -- ELIOOO -written by an author I didn't recognize, Antonio Scarponi. But, as I flipped through the pages, it was clear to me that she had found something that knit together a number of design obsessions I had investigated since childhood, wrapped up in a package straight out of the new maker economy. 

In fifth grade, I found the Kid's Whole Future Catalog in the school library and was forever warped by its vision of an integrated green future, where we all lived in arcologies and commuted in velocars. In 7th grade, for Mrs. Mason's geography class, we had to make a 3-foot square diorama of a working farm. Instead of patiently pasting toothpicks to replicate a hundred acres of petrochemically-fed corn, I made a survival pit greenhouse modeled after another library book. James Dekorne's prototype was a solar-heated, self-contained ecosystem that used compost tea to grow plants hydroponically. Rabbits in cages underneath the planters pumped the space full of CO2, which sped photosynthesis. A huge tilapia tank bred fish for eating and worked as thermal mass to store heat after the sun went down. The rabbit crap fed the compost heap, the fish water fed the hydroponic system, and on it went into a meta-hippie version of the Grand Unified Theory

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