Shelter is a universal need. A basic necessity. Humanity has developed diverse adaptations worldwide as our primary relationship with our environment. Like food, language and clothing our different takes on it have resulted in some amazing diversity and incredible ingenuity.
I remember when I was at the investment bank and we were brokering the acquisition of Limone by the perfume giant Marrionaud. The head of Limone was this great, fun Italian guy who insisted on unrolling these blueprints he had for this immense palace he was building in Sicily so he could share his enthusiasm for it.
I've never wanted that. Even if I had a place I'd want something small and reasonable and inexpensive. Basically a place for my stuff while I travel (and really, I'd much rather have a boat to live on. =p ). But I find I'm getting more and more involved in the new house design that my parents are working on for the Casa Manningo II. And perhaps vicariously inserting my own innate need to actualize shelter and stave off rootlessness in recommendations and ideas for theirs.
Charter ideas about it being energy efficient, low impact and ecologically friendly were something I added in. I've also been hunting around for some inspiration to break the design ideas out of the simple angles and skins over rooms concepts. Sneaking Frank Lloyd Wright books on to the parental kitchen table and also, Home Work : Handbuilt Shelter which is basically a follow up and cultural stepchild to a book Shelter written in the early 70s which epitomized the 60s countercultural revolution (and inspired books like the Whole Earth catalogue which in turn inspired The Well to be created). This book continues the tradition but also documents many of the houses that were inspired and constructed because of the first book.
And the results of that influence are amazing. The large oversized picture book format conveys that some of the places are beautiful hand-crafted wooden sculptures, mongolian-inspired modern yurts, compelling, beautiful, practical and ecologically low impact straw bale adobe homes, Gaudi-esque lightweight concrete structures and even bamboo. And every single one of them is nifty, clever, and for many of them, works of art rather than mere shelter. Looking around suburbia, it makes you wonder how you can settle for a rubber stamped house. And even better, it inspires you to forge something of your own from your hands (current boat under consideration).
I also like how the book covers other alternative living arrangements like air camping, converted rolling homes. Would give it full points but nothing about boats that people have converted to living spaces which has been an obsession to get back to for me since moving off the Neilali in Paris.
Interestingly, many of the places are also off-grid by choice and the owners have come up with a massive number of ways to make them both energy efficient and self-sustaining. Besides passive and active solar, clever hydroelectric and wind power many of the homes exhibit clever uses of insulation or design characteristics to maximize green power and eliminate dependence on utilities.
It's a bit hippy in places, but incredible for its inspirational value. Gleaned a lot of good ideas from it. Maybe you can too.