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Steven Mannell

Dalhousie Architectural Press
120 pp ill. 8.5 x 8.5 in softcover  
$34.95 Can. $36.95 U.S.
March 6, 2018
(Now available)

Built in 1976 by the Cape Cod-based New Alchemy Institute and designed in partnership with Solsearch Architects of Cambridge MA, the Ark bio-shelter was conceived as "an early exploration in weaving together the sun, wind, biology and architecture for the benefit of humanity.” The structure’s integrated ecological design features provided autonomous life support for a family of four, providing for all food and energy needs, managing all wastes, and enabling a new and symbiotic relationship between its inhabitants and the ecosystem of their home. The Ark deployed many then-experimental technologies that remain emblems of sustainable design today: solar heating with mass heat storage, a high-efficiency wood stove, a wind turbine generator, composting toilets, and a passive solar agri/aquaculture greenhouse. It embodied design approaches that were being explored in numerous environmental building experiments of the era, including passive solar orientation, super-insulation of walls and roof, and minimizing of exterior surface and edges. Four decades on, humanity faces many of the same environmental challenges addressed by the Ark, though now with a greater sense of urgency, a reduced sense of individual and community agency to tackle them, and an expectation of diminished lifestyles. This study of the ground-breaking project offers an alternative approach to meeting a challenging future: a spirit of critical hope, embodying adventure and possibility, with creative collaboration between science and society, and among governments, communities and individuals. Published to accompany the exhibition celebrating the Ark’s 40th anniversary, the publication is illustrated with dozens of original drawings and period photographs, and features a wealth of background materials. Steven Mannell is director of the College of Sustainability at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. He is the author of Atlantic Modern: The Architecture of the Atlantic Provinces 1950-2000 (2004).