Through his free movie First Earth David Sheen is passing on the positive transformation that occurred in his life after learning about ecological architecture.
When David Sheen first decided to make a film that depicts the history, necessity, and straight-up sensibility of ecological architecture, he had no idea what a massive task he had set for himself. It took four years to scout out both ancient and contemporary natural homes on four continents and hundreds of hours of footage to create First Earth – Uncompromising Ecological Architecture.
Remarkably, the Canadian-born Israeli designer and reporter has never sought fame or fortune. Instead, he hopes to pass on to everyone, regardless of their demographic, the positive transformation that learning about healthy homes has created in his life. First Earth has been translated into 12 different languages and costs absolutely nothing to watch. This is not a trick – we promise.
Pursuing a more meaningful life
Sheen explained in a Skype interview with Green Prophet that he moved to Tel Aviv from Canada in 1999 and worked as a Graphic Designer. In time the conventional consumer lifestyle in Tel Aviv lost its meaning and he sought out a new place to pursue a healthier, more natural lifestyle.
“Kibbutz Lotan really appealed to me on a gut level,” he said.
A decade ago, Kibbutz Lotan in Israel’s Negev desert – now a world-famous center for all things ecological – was just beginning to experiment with green building projects. Sheen was lucky to be among the first on this exciting new scene.
After six months of building healthy homes at the Kibbutz, he then decided to return to Canada to deepen his knowledge and pursue a Masters in Architecture at the University of Toronto.
Learning the ropes in the United States
But it became apparent very quickly that Sheen’s ideas were too unconventional for the University’s industrial architecture curriculum, so he enrolled at the North American School of Natural Building in the United States instead.
“It was amazing,” he said. But it wasn’t easy. Sheen had to adjust to living in Oregon’s dense, wet forests and to building with his own hands and feet. Then he did an apprenticeship with a leading ecological building firm called TSUI Design.
It was while he was traveling up and down the west coast to visit other natural homes that Sheen began to document what he was learning. “Most people who were involved with natural building didn’t know how to disseminate their knowledge using modern technology,” he explained. So he decided to bridge the gap between these two worlds – seemingly at odds with each other.
Telling the whole story
He traveled to Ghana, Ethiopia, England, Europe, and Yemen, where he witnessed first hand the incredible “Manhattan of the Desert” mud towers that have survived hundreds of year, among other places, to gather material for his film.
“I’m a perfectionist,” he said. “I wanted to tell the whole story.” And that is exactly what he has done in the most comprehensive cinematic overview of earth architecture – from its origins to its future – that we have seen.
Sheen is not independently wealthy and had very little funding to make this incredible resource available to the wider public. But he did receive a lot of help from friends and others – a little bit of money here, a few airline miles there, and time.
“They believed in what I was doing,” he said.
First Earth demonstrates that using local, renewable building materials with a low carbon footprint and intelligent design to reduce energy requirements is not only good for “eco-freakos” – everyone can benefit from this knowledge. And we have done for thousands of years.
12 Chapters from the heart
There are 12 chapters, beginning with What’s Wrong With Architecture. Sheen unravels the evolution of architecture from the ancient, sustainable model to the contemporary industrial model that usurps far too many natural resources.
He then moves on to depict examples of African and American natural buildings before proceeding to European, Arabian, Urban, and International earth projects. There are several other chapters in between that are very easy to follow thanks to handy sub titles.
Anyone interested in earth bag construction, building with cob, or any other kind of natural building materials and methods should visit David Sheen’s website and enjoy – one chapter at a time – a project that was compiled with a whole lot of heart.
:: David Sheen
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