Malcolm Wells, 1926-2009

Malcolm Wells, the original prophet of underground or earth-sheltered architecture, died on November 27, 2009.Malcolm Wells, Cherry Hill Office

I still remember reading about his architectural office in Cherry Hill in the early 1970s, a startlingly light filled room beneath a meadow that restored the suburban site to its natural condition.

That ethic became the basis of his gentle architecture, for which he published a manifesto in 1981. That formalized the “wilderness checklist” he had been refining since 1969, and pre-figured today’s Living Building Challenge.

While his work was never widely known, perhaps in part because of that gentleness, it still offers an ecologically sophisticated example. Challenging because of the integration with its site and local ecosystems, it is in many ways the opposite of green roofs added only as stormwater management devices.