Malcolm Wells, Pioneer of Green Architecture, Dies at 83

M_wells.jpgIn the obituary he wrote himself, Malcolm “Mac” Wells described himself as “an atheist, a Democrat, a skinny old bearded guy, and the owner, with [wife] Karen, of the Underground Art Gallery” in Cape Cod. He also mentioned that he didn’t have a date until his senior year of high school and had never touched a computer or cell phone. Wells, who died on November 27 of congestive heart failure, didn’t get around to mentioning that he was designing environmentally friendly buildings (green roofs, solar power) nearly 50 years before LEED certification became as desirable as granite countertops or stainless steel appliances. He was a tireless advocate of “underground architecture,” earth-covered structures that he proposed as the antidote to “glitzy buildings and trophy houses: big, ugly, show-off monsters that stand—or I should say stomp—on land stripped bare by the construction work and replanted with toxic green lawns.” The gentler approach to architecture that he developed in the mid-1960s, after designing the RCA pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair, was once derided as wacky but today sounds positively prescient: “A building should consume its own waste, maintain itself, match nature’s pace, provide wildlife habitat, moderate climate and weather, and be beautiful.”