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About Malcolm Wells

Macolm Wells

With deepest regret and condolences,
we report the passing away of Malcolm Wells.

Malcolm passed on Friday, November 27, 2009.

Mac wrote his own obituary in advance.
You can read it here.

You can sign a note of condolence for his family here.

Malcolm Wells standing outside his Underground Art Gallery

Other obituaries about Mac (in no particular order):

MAC's 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 it here.

on this page
  • How do you describe a man?
  • Why should you get to know him?
  • Mac's Brief Bio
  • Mac answers some questions
  • Mac speaks about Underground Architecture
  • Mac's Professional History
  • Mac's Unending Gifts
  • Will the real Maclolm Wells please stand up?
  • Order Mac's Books and Services
  • How do you describe a man?

    Malcolm Wells was more than an activist, more than a professional, more than a description on a web site or inside the back of a book.

    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.

    An 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).

    Why should you get to know Malcolm Wells and his works?

    Mac 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.

    Mac's Brief Bio

    "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 dry,
    sunny silence of the Underground Art Gallery."
    Mac's Bio, Page 1Mac's Bio, Page 2

    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:
    "I 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."
    See these comments in Mac's own handwriting.

    Mac 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."

    Photo © Paul Giambarba
    Why don't we see underground houses all around us?
    "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 wounds."

    Mac speaks about underground architecture:

    "...A building should consume its own waste, maintain itself, match nature's pace, provide wildlife habitat, moderate cli
    mate and weather and be beautiful. That's a series of pass/fail evaluation criteria...."

    "...By 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 stand—or I should say stomp—on 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

    Mac was an architect, writer, illustrator, draftsman, lecturer, cartoonist, columnist, and solar consultant. He wrote for The 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 Home.

    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:

    Malcolm Wells: frontman for a band called The Soul Searchers;, likes to swing dance, play harmonica
    Malcolm Wells: Advertisement Manager, The Motor Ship
    Malcolm Wells: Deputy Chief Executive of Tourism, Tasmania
    Malcolm Wells: the greatest British detective ever
    Malcolm Wells: developer of A Modeling Method for high school physics instruction
    Malcolm Wells: Master of Arts Candidate, Department of Urban Planning UCLA
    Malcolm Wells: author of Kingston upon Hull Trolleybuses
    Malcolm Wells: 1997 Barnes Award winner, the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association
    Malcolm Wells: Managing Director Europe, XLPrint Europe
    Malcolm Wells II: 1999 INSPRA’s Achievement Award, Indianapolis Public Schools
    Malcolm Wells: State Bar of Georgia, Young Lawyers Division, Aspiring Youth Program Co-Chair
    Malcolm Wells: UK Offshore Operators Association
    Malcolm Wells: Accountant and Small Business Specialist, Malcolm Wells Accounting Solutions
    Malcolm Wells: Transport manager, TONG ENGINEERING, manufacturer of vegetable handling machinery
    Malcolm Wells: Langstone Junior School Governor, Langstone, UK
    Malcolm Wells: media director, Devonport Triathlon Association, Devonport, Australia
    Malcolm Wells: Broadway Producer and Performer
    Malcolm Wells: Sir Wilfred Grenfell College Principal’s List Winter 2000
    Malcolm Wells: lives in West Virginia, member of Smoky Mountain Historical Society
    Malcolm Wells: Valley Business Equipment, Labrador North Chamber of Commerce Membership
    Colonel Malcolm Wells Robinson: Order of Military Merit, Canadian Regular and Reserve Forces
    Dr. Malcolm Wells: character in The Bat, a 1959 Vincent Price movie
    Malcolm Wells Mackenzie, M.D: OB/GYN in New Hampshire

    Order Mac's Books

    Y ou can order his books here.

    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.