Greater World Earthship Development
If you brave the slender suspension bridge and continue on the west side of the gorge on U.S. 64, you soon see some odd apparitions along the right side of the road. These whimsically curved and creatively finished houses are Earthships: modular, low-priced homes that function entirely separately from the public utility grid by using collected rainwater and wind and solar power.
Architect Michael Reynolds has been honing his Earthship design for more than three decades here in New Mexico. Whether it’s due to the latent hippie culture or the awe-inspiring landscape, the homes have proved very popular, and you’ll see them dotted around the area, as well as clustered together here at Greater World, the largest of three all-Earthship subdivisions in the area.
Although they look like fanciful Hobbit homes or Mars colony pods on the outside, Earthships are made of rather common stuff.
The walls, usually built into hillsides, are stacks of used tires packed solid with rammed earth, while bottles stacked with cement and crushed aluminum cans form front walls and colorful peepholes. Windows along the front wall are angled to maximize heat from the sun during the winter, while planters filter gray water and black water, creating a humid greenhouse atmosphere inside that’s very welcome in arid New Mexico.
The Greater World subdivision maintains a visitors center, 1.8 miles past the bridge, that’s the most unconventional model home and sales office you’ll ever visit.
You can take the self-guided Solar Survival Tour (575/751-0462, www.earthship.com, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, $5) of a basic Earthship and watch a video about the building process and the thinking behind the design. If you’re hooked, you can of course get details on buying a lot in the development or buying the plans to build your own place.
Or try before you buy: Three Earthships here are for rent nightly or weekly, starting at $135.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition