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The EVE Project Earthship in Taos (photo by Sarah Richter / Flickr)

It's perhaps not surprising that a structure called "Earthship" has been around since the '70s—and that, like similarly vintaged trends of Birkenstocks and juicing, they never quite died. They only faded away. 

Earthships are designed to be entirely off-the-grid and self-sustaining, constructed from reclaimed and recycled materials and making use of natural resources. The term originates with architect Mike Reynolds, a pioneer of "radically sustainable living," who coined it in 1971.  He designed his "Earthship Biotecture" house out of recycled materials in 1972, and he has been refining the concept ever since. They tend to be horeshoe-shaped to maximize natural light, using windows and skylights with integrated shades to improve cross-ventilation and help regulate heat, and are often built underground where the temperature has less fluctuation. Many include a principle glass wall facing the equator to optimize solar exposure, thick external walls made of rammed-earth tires to regulate temperature, and internal walls constructed from a honeycomb of recycled cans. They also include intricate systems to collect, harvest, and purify water, with greywater for flushing and blackwater for compost, as well as wind turbines, deep-cycle batteries, and a new invention called a Power Organizing Module to convert stored wind and solar energy for AC use.

Although Reynolds has faced some significant legal and professional challenges, his designs continue to be embraced, and there are now Earthships all over the world, from Europe to Africa. Here are several fascinating examples.  

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“Hair Apparent” hair salons. “Legal Grounds” coffee shops. “Dew Drop Inn” motels. America’s business owners can’t seem to resist a good pun. The same goes for vacation homes; a house at the beach without a clever name is a dereliction of duty, making you suspect that the owners are lazy, or worse, unimaginative, letting their chance to plant a flag go by.

 article-image(Wordplay on Tybee Island, Georgia. Photo by Anna Marlis Burgard.)

My notes and photo collections from the Islands of America grand tour are peppered with examples of punny vacation house signage, although the practice seems more common east of the Mississippi. There are cottages named “Heart & Sol” and “Om Sweet Home” on Tybee Island, Georgia and homophones like “Daze Off” and “Pair o' Dice” on Captiva Island, Florida. Aquidneck Island, Rhode Island has a “Summersalt” with a view of Newport’s famous Cliff Walk mansions. Emerald Isle, North Carolina offers “Vitamin Sea” to its collection, and, courtesy of author David Sedaris and his humorously documented, decades-long wish for a family home there, “Sea Section.”

article-image(More from Tybee Island. Photo by Anna Marlis Burgard.)

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