the artistic possibilities
of designing with nature

Upcoming events

January 1, 2024 from 10:45 am

We are extending the display of Robert Shannon's retrospective untill the end of May 2024.  We invite interested partys to contact us and schedule a visit while the broad spectrum of our founder's contribututions are still on full display.  We can be reached at   For more information on the show please click this link.


Design and construct the man-made environment to be in harmony with the natural environment.

Solar Work 1970-78

Long House, Solar Scoop, Red House, Roof-entry House

Beginning in 1970 this house was built in Windham Vermont as a gut response to open the interior to the winter sun. It was an unadorned vernacular solar wall with references to early and mid-century modernism. Several additions were added over the years, with major changes in refinements beginning in 1998, commencing its conversion to an inn.

Built in 1974, this speculative vacation house was conceived of as a box, opening like a light-scoop to the sun. The south wall was part active solar hot-air collector and part passive gain windows. The hot air was stored in a vertical rock-bed tower on the north side of the house; a fan dispersed the heat needed. Insulating panels were dropped at night over the windows which were painted with a mural of the mountain view behind. The plan was a 20 foot square, two stories, raised on concrete piers to allow a car to park underneath, with an earth berm to the south to wind shelter the parking area. Large reflectors,top and bottom, added additional light to the system and could be seasonally adjusted.

Begun in 1976, this speculative vacation house was inspired by Mesa Verde; an artificial cliff was built of rough masonry cavity walls on the north,east,and west sides and buried 12 feet into the ground on the uphill entry side. Various semi-defined spaces were loosely stacked within this boundary. At the bottom a curve "kiva" wall backs the living room with a small staircase descending to 2 bedrooms. Other sleeping areas are located in two upper lofts. The roof steps back to create decked terraces. Several arrays of reflectors bounce light into the south windows. A large fan draws excess heat from the top of the space into a rock bed under the living room which is reradiated at night. The rock bed also serves as a thermal flywheel in other seasons. Insulating curtains cover the glass at night. This house attempts an illusion of "an exterior", a village indoors, as a response to the harsh Vermont climate. In 1995 this house was remodeled to be an inn. It joins its sister house next door(see top of page) as A Stone Wall Inn, opened in 2001.

Another small house on a steep hill is entered across the top of the house and down to an entry and dining deck facing the view and a pond site. The living room becomes a giant bay window around which the house bends out of the way of the southwestern view ( and sun.) This a simple version of off-axis solar in passive systems. The benefit is a longer exposure of the space to direct sunlight for both daylighting and psychological comfort, even though the glass has an overall reduced net gain.