What makes a good shelter? For thousands of years we’ve been attempting to regulate the idea. Even the bible had building codes. The book of Deuteronomy mandates railings on roofs to prevent falls. After the great London fire of 1666, cities began creating stricter regulations for how we build. Over the centuries the codebooks have only grown thicker.
It’s undeniable that building codes have saved lives, but something has changed over the past couple decades. Now thanks to the Internet the average homeowner has unlimited access to building techniques (both traditional and experimental) so we’re experimenting more than ever, often without regard for the rulebooks.
I have been filming stories with rule-bending builders for years now and I keep hearing about their promised land: sparsely inhabited parts of the U.S. (states like New Mexico and Texas) where there are no, or few, building codes.
I decided to seek out the renegades of this codebreakers utopia, so I organized a family road trip through the American Southwest in hopes of finding out what these revolutionary builders could teach us about smarter shelters.
* Music by Charles Humenry. Additional music (Marfa) by Sahil Jindal.
** Featuring Paolo Soleri (Arcosanti), Brad “Darby” Kittel (Tiny Texas Houses), Patrick Kennedy (CITYSPACES microapartments, Panoramic Interests), John Wells (Field Lab), Luke Iseman (Boxouse), Tom Duke (Earthships Biotecture), Stephanie Schull (shelter program, Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture), Ben Berto (principal planner, Marin County), Johnny Sanphillippo (granolashotgun.com, mortgage-free home), Begin Tollas family (Arcosanti), Rawaf al Rawaf (Arcosanti), Mimi Webb Miller (Terlingua Ghost Town)