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An Earthship at Earthaven Ecovillage, Black Mountain, North Carolina, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"

A work made of chromogenic print.

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  • A work made of chromogenic print.


April 2005


Joel Sternfeld
American, born 1944

About this artwork


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Photography and Media


Joel Sternfeld


An Earthship at Earthaven Ecovillage, Black Mountain, North Carolina, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 2005


Chromogenic print


No markings recto or verso Earthships, invented by American architect M. K. Reynolds, derive their name from his idea of them as “independent vessels to sail on the seas of tomorrow.” They are generally made from tires filled with rammed earth, though sometimes of bottles and cans. They are often configured to maximize the surface area on which solar panels can be placed and typically have rain catchments and a filtration system for water (the circular object seen at the corner of the building is a cistern). Not visible in this photograph is an all-glass south facing wall. In the winter when the sun is low in the sky, sunlight pours through it directly into the home. The warmth that results is retained by the high insulating coefficient of the three earthen walls enabling the house to be sixty-eight degrees with minimal heating. In the summer, when the sun is overhead, the cool earthen walls maintain sixty-eight with little or no additional cooling. This home is sited so that on December twenty-first the sun is just over the horizon of the ridge to the east. The house is one of numerous innovative structures that comprise Earthaven Ecovillage. Because Earthaven’s 320 acres are mostly mountainous forest, all dwellings are built on slopes, leaving flat ground available to become agricultural fields. Though still under construction, Earthaven has been completely off the grid since its inception in 1994. The central village is powered by a micro-hydro system and the water supply comes from a natural spring and is stored in a ten thousand-gallon water tank. Homes in the community are built of natural or recycled materials, and the entire site has been planned as a model of permaculture design. Members pay annual dues, share title to the land and participate in a consensus decision-making process. Each community member is responsible for earning his or her own living. The village-scale economy includes numerous ecologically sound businesses, such as Red Moon Herbs and Permaculture Activist and Communities magazines. The community doesn’t have a single village-wide spiritual practice. “What many of us have in common is a reverence for the Earth and our land, and the belief that our land is alive and conscious and it’s our sacred duty to honor and care for it.” From the portfolio, Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America, 1982–2005


Image: 26.5 × 33.2 cm (10 7/16 × 13 1/8 in.); Paper: 27.9 × 35.5 cm (11 × 14 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Ralph and Nancy Segall

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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