1967 “Domicile” Concept
These sketches were made during May 1973 based on a September 1967 concept. It was with these sketches that I started to explore the “Domicile” concept in detail. I started using the term DOMICILE in 1977.
click on plan below to go to Domicile One

Plot Plan

These sketches do not show the greenhouse indicated on the DomicileOne cross section. Also, this version was for a somewhat smaller project: about a 50 ft dome and, therefore, sufficient for about three families. It was conceived as a test of the concept. I believe the design will work far better, economically, in the 75 foot diameter range. On the other hand, the scale of this version will fit much better in traditional neighborhoods populated with two and three story houses.


I was living in an older section of Kansas City at the time these were done and the two lots shown in the above plot plan are about the typical size for that area. It can be seen that the Dome, as indicated, took up a small part of the land. A 75 foot Dome, with earth-berm and greenhouse would somewhat crowd a site of this size. However, a two lot layout with one of them being at a corner would work for the larger work which achieves much greater economic utilization. Three lots could also be successfully employed


Adjacent to the sidewalk and just below the parking area is the Entry/Office facility. Dotted lines indicate the Tube to the Dome. The Entry/Office can can be seen on the section view (right hand side) below. The detached Office is a necessary feature of this kind of concept. It provides a “buffer” between the inhabitants and the outside world. Transactional relationships do not intrude on the life within. The office area can also include a small meeting area for casual dialog. The “business” of the Domicile can be conducted in this facility including the face-to-the-world of the self-employed inhabitants.

click on drawing below to see a further development of the Entry/Office

Cross Section

I drew these sketches at the time I started my two year reading binge [link: 1974]. Professionally, this was not a happy time for me and I could find little work that addressed the concerns I had developed over the first 18 years of my practice. Architecture did not seem to be focusing on, let alone solving, issues of energy use, unnecessary building costs nor the social problems - made more intense by the time and effort required to earn a living to pay for the basics of housing, energy and food - directly related to the isolation of people from community. UpSideDown Economics [link: aspects of upside down economics] was flourishing. It still is.


Given this context, these sketches have an “energy” and meaning to me far greater than just an idea for a building - they were seeking solutions to a problem that I felt profoundly trapped in myself: how to secure both the time and tooling - and special interaction - necessary to do original work while remaining free of institutions that have their own agenda which is in opposition to your own? The work of Jane Jacobs [link: jane jacobs] was high on my reading list at this time and remains, to this day, an inspiration. Jane focused on the viability and economy of cities - what I extrapolated from her work was the idea that the same principles and precepts she applied to cities can be applied to the economy of enterprises including buildings housing only a few families. This is made so by the switch to knowledge work which is inherently global and flexible. Can a small community of families become a “replacement economy?” I think so.


Today, we are far richer a society than 25 years ago and many of the problems addressed by this concept “seem,” for many, to have gone away. This is partially true for those who are presently capable of doing the work that today’s economy pays highly for. Many, however, still feel trapped and - no matter how much they earn - cannot seem to match work-lifestyle with their true human desires. Few of them, however, see how there circumstances are tied up in the intrinsic economics of the built-environment. And, these are the “fortunate” ones! There are many Americans who cannot afford decent housing and there are millions around the world who live in such terrible circumstances that the points being made here would seem beyond their wildest aspirations. The development process [link: real real estate development] is broken. This does not “matter” at the high end because people can “afford” to pay twice as much as they should for the buildings they work [link: reworking hte workplace] and live in and for the infrastructure they employ. No matter the wealth we have, in the financial sense, our present development patterns are not sustainable for a growing population that is also becoming more affluent. Can you imagine China and India following the development Patterns of the USA? Well, there are thousands of companies eager to help them do just this [link; india china gnp]. In the end, none of this is sustainable economically not ecologically.


No... The problem has not be solved. It has not gone away. Great, wasted wealth accumulated by some has officiated the issue and stolen the debate. Think about this. At this day and age, we humans have not figured out how to feed, educate and house our population on a decent level. And, we accept this condition. We even have an economic theory [link: upsidedown economics] that justifies it.


And, of course, whenever the economy softens many who believed they had “made it” discover the intrinsic vulnerability of their situation. Stress follows, so called assets are often lost, more self-defeating short term decisions are made that builds more traps for the future. A cycle repeats.


The Domicile Project explores the idea of “Urban Homesteading” and of making the building itself - and the social structure outside and within it - an intrinsic and useful part of the inhabitant’s domestic economy. There is no reason that these “domestic” economies cannot function as “replacement economies” as Jacobs explains them. The majority of cooperative communities built in the United States have been done in rural settings. Usonia Homes is an outstanding example. These explored many of the issues that Domiciles do. However, there is additional intrinsic value in the Domicile concept. The “environment valve” of the shell as an energy management system, the urban setting close to many social and business amenities, the efficient use of land, the “tightness” of the community living - all add up to a formula that many will find useful at some points along their life cycle. As these are likely to take place at different periods, inter-generational groups are possible.


The Domicile concept, by separating the shell from the interior system, provides an economical way to create an adaptable living space that can change as requirements change. This is the most radical aspect of the plan. The Boulder Affordable Housing Project explored this same devise in a completely different structural configuration.


The economic principles applied by these projects are:

1) never design a systems’s overhead for peak demand;

2) find alternative ways around the peak issue. Travel-to-work schedules are an example that drives redundancy of car ownership;

3) Base the design on what is best held as commons and what is best kept as individual tooling and wealth. Some things are best shared with little competition for use - others are not. These approaches can cut tremendous redundancy and greatly lower the use of capital;

4) In addition, pay close attention to energy management and the possibilities of “domestic” food and energy production, as well as, self-provided services. In this case, the design manages energy, food production and their use a great deal more efficiently than traditional domestic configurations. Certain foods, including fish, are easily grown on site and in the greenhouse and can provide better freshness, quality and economy. Other items can be purchased bulk. Only a few items are best purchased in a few-items-at-a-time retail store. Besides costs, there are great TIME savings possible here;

5) use the free-time-capital - created by 1 through 4 - to invest in yourself and your communities creative, sustainable, life-work-style options. Create your future “by design not default.”

What we are talking about here is freedom. Freedom to explore your full potential. Freedom to build communitiy around your values. Freedom to make use of what the global economy has to offer while staying free from being entrapped by it.

I estimated, in the early 70s, that the total cost of living for the inhabitants of a Domicile would be half of exiting domestic architecture’s fixed overhead while accomplishing a doubling in the quality of life. I believe this is an easy goal today. Think about the implications of this.

Do you know how bad modern housing is and how expensive it is? Tie this to the cost of goods where most of the cost to the customer is the packaging and advertising and you realize how very little intrinsic value is purchased with low and middle income dollars. Millions literally live to work to be able to live in order to work so they can... There is no margin in this endless cycle. No profit [link: profit]. Profit is necessary to improve life. Capital is required for education, recreation, starting new ventures, transforming a life. Domestic economy runs by the same rules as does a business economy however this is rarely appreciated. The issue of “affordable” housing is not just one related to lower income individuals. It effects all economic strata.

Boulder Affordable Housing Project:

A large earth-shelter greenhouse glazing system that acts like an energy environment value. The interior is made up of societies of approximately 125 persons each.

Each society is composed of a number of self-organized affinity family groups. The entire interior can be re created from a kit of parts.

The AFFORDABILITY question has to be looked at from many perspectives and levels of recursion of the Human-Earth system. Can you afford it [link: wage slavery]? Can our future society afford it [link: rebuilding the future]? Can Nature [link: the gaia project]? On the balance sheet of your life, what is your housing, transportation, food supply SYSTEM costing you and what life options are thereby precluded? What is your domestic economy?


These studies were also related to my concept of “bootstrapping” the social, organizational and biological systems necessary for future space habitats [link: bootstrap into space] by building a series of (doubling) larger structures that were increasingly self sufficient. This self-sufficiency capability would also allow Mega Cities [link: wilderness mega city] to be built in remote regions of the Earth, on the ocean, in the atmosphere and, ultimately, space.


A building should be an expression [link: architectural criteria] of the idea that determines its use. If a group were to decide to live and (at least some) work together - how could they do this in a conventional domestic architectural setting? There is little out there that serves. Certainly the typical configurations of domestic, housing and office architecture do not. Several individuals and families living/working together is a deliberate affinity group - that affinity should be explicitly captured and augmented by the building. Architecture must respond explicitly to the requirements of the user not just in general terms that forces the choice between compromise and expensive remodeling. Architecture has to address the systemic issues. A “perfect” place to live and a “perfect” place to work do not necessarily add up if they impose extraordinary travel times and social/economic compromises.


EVERY environment should be an environment crafted for those that live and work in it - not to some generalized model - and, every environment should be adaptable to future change and use (reuse). It should be an environment for what happens in it - now and in the future. This is economy. It is said that this level of fitness is too expensive. Not true if one knows how to build [link: swimming pool/nasa methods]. It is said that everyone wants their own stand-alone environment. When you look at the alternatives offered - do you blame them? What if there existed an effective definition and practice of COMMONS? It is said that modest living cannot be artful - WHY? By what definition of architecture [link: what is architecture?] is this asserted? It is said that general systems and individual art are not compatible - what about the Usonian Houses [link: post usonian project]? It is said that our society - the richest in known history - cannot create a circumstance where basic food, education, shelter, health, access to healthy work and living environments, cannot had for all it’s members - is it possible we have some design flaws here? What true alternatives, other than subsidizing what the market has already declared too expensive, have we tried?


Domicile is one way of building for the modern hunter-gatherer, knowledge-based, global culture. The Domicile becomes, in a compressed and efficient way, the landscape which supports a new kind of tribal-culture. It is one way of overcoming some intrinsic poverty-begets-poverty loops. It is one way to do social experiments - on a small scale - with little attendant risk. It is one way to LIVE without a crushing mort-gage.



The Domicile is one of many ways to employ architecture, which integrates economy and ecology, in the service of a healthy, affordable, sustainable life-style which frees people to explore their personal and group values and life quest. Modern civilization has brought many benefits to millions of people. It has also extracted a hidden cost which few are aware of yet sense in the disquiet of their lives. The final bill has yet to be tendered and when it is Humanities’ account may be overdrawn.
From the perspective of seven decades I can credibly assert that human life is becoming increasingly manic and un stable. Ours is a distracted society and not a happy one despite our many accomplishments and goods. The concept of leisure in it’s highest sense is nearly forgotten. Culture has become commodity. Where is civil society? It seems to be all shouting now. The nuclear family, a modern invention it should be pointed out, is in disarray. Community development is a joke. The pattern language of great cities has given away to sprawl.
Yet, we have an abundance of new tools and almost unlimited access to one another the riches of 10,000 years of human knowledge and culture. What is lost is time. The inventions which were to serve us have become our masters. The majority exist to feed the machine of a false modernity while the affluent turn culture into a parade of pretense and made up glamour. As Wright asked so many decades ago, When Democracy Builds, “where is the citizen?”
Is this the country that Jefferson dreamed?
Steward Brand, in The Clock of the Long Now, talks about fast and slow time and the need for both. The slow food movement seeks to bring back food, table and the art of conversation. It is critical that we rebuild the base of a civil society from the ground up. This will require a new kind of family, community, personal economy, and ways-of-living. A great variety is required and needed to match the healthy potential of our emergent species.
Humanity has lost awareness of itself and the situation of which it is a part. We try to control everything while losing understanding of self and community. We are wildly creative and equally destructive. It is time to rediscover living. It is time to recreate hearth and home. It is time to understand personal economy. It is time to remake the base of human life.
click on drawing above to go to Design Development page
Return To Index
GoTo: EcoSphere Bungalow
GoTo: Return of the Usonian
GoTo: Wage Slavery
GoTo: A Future by Design - Not Default
GoTo: Renascence Reports
GoTo: Quest
Matt Taylor
Palo Alto
February 21, 1999



SolutionBox voice of this document:

click on graphic for explanation of SolutionBox

posted: February 21, 1999

revised: April 13, 2010
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