PULLMAN, Wash. – He was part of a Chinese junk team that was shipwrecked in Western Samoa, where he lived, restored the boat and sailed it for three years. He designed and helped build the Biosphere 2, a closed ecosystem in Oracle, Ariz. He was part of the Theater of Possibilities in which scientists, artists and adventurers built 13 theaters and then performed in them. Phil Hawes, a renowned international architect of the “organic school,” has helped design and build geodesic glass structures, adobe complexes, steel and stone houses, hotels, yurts and even envisioned how to turn used space shuttles into apartments. He has designed prototypical sustainable communities for planets Earth and Mars, and recreated a medieval town on the Arizona desert.
Hawes shared more than three decades of his “total process” projects and adventures with a packed WSU lecture hall April 6. As architect-in-residence for a week, he put his hands-on immersion learning theory to the test. He supervised the planning and launching this week of a straw bale structure to house an information kiosk for WSU’s Tukey Fruit Orchard near the Pullman-Moscow Airport.
The main message he passed to Professor Michael Owen and his 18 third-year architecture design students was “with interest and persistence, you needn’t believe anyone who tells you that you can’t do something.” He demonstrated how, with basic earth and water, bricks can be fashioned to make simple structures; how to install a living roof of sod; and how — unlike the three-pigs fable — 80 bales of construction-quality straw can be turned into a structurally and ecologically sound building.
“You students, as architects of today, had better darn well learn about ecosystems and structures of all kinds to support life on this planet where all the eco-niches have been filled,” he told them. He demonstrated with an elegantly designed bird house that recycles nutrients from the bird droppings that feed plant material, that feed worms, that feed fish, which in turn feed the birds and fertilize the plants.
When Hawes trekked alone for four months over 500 miles of the mountainous uninhabited western Australia wilderness, he said he learned to find water each day and food sporadically, and in spirit learned that humans are born to struggle upward. “When I reentered society, supermarkets seemed genuinely obscene.” Hawes’ itinerant life is without many physical encumbrances, except for a few lockers of stored things scattered throughout the world.
He is a friend not only of the earth, but of the road.
By the time the straw kiosk is dedicated late April or early May, he will be conducting workshops in France to establish 1½ acres of sustainable property including food production, renewable energy systems, water recycling, waste water purification and more innovative structures.

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Photo Opportunity: 4 p.m. Friday, April 10, Airport Road, Tukey Orchards; Phil Hawes, “Organic Architect” in residence for the week, and 18 third-year architecture students build the foundation of a public kiosk for WSU fruit sales. The 4-week project was designed by group, built with donated materials, and will be dedicated early May. Donors include Moscow Building Supply, G&G Hay, Shawnee Rock, Wesmar Construction, WSU School of Architecture, WSU Fine Arts and Callison Architects, which paid Hawes’ stipend. The community structure is worth about $10-15,000. To watch the four-week progress of the student building project, check the Bales Project on the Web at www.wsu.edu/~owenms/DESIGN-IV/DESIGNIV.HTM