Community Watch: ReUsed Houses in East Texas

I’m in the middle of a relaxing and surprisingly productive Christmas break and before I show my son’s second XMas gift, I’d like to share my last field trip of the year.

I went to visit this guy, with two fellow  teachers and ten kids.  Dan Phillips is a self-taught house builder, plumber & electrician.  He creates houses from recycled material – wine bottles and corks, beer caps, off-cuts from lumber yards and other building waste.

He also is blessed with a mind that weaves the long-ago and still relevant philosophies of Nietzsche and Plato into a stellar critique of today’s building industry.  In his opinion, the level of waste found in commercial and residential construction can be traced to a obsession with imaginary perfection at the consumer level.  Any example: mirrors.  In the shipping (and making, I assume) of mirrors for homes, some get cracked.  Those mirrors are tossed into the landfill.  Now, had the builder just cracked the rest of the mirrors, a pattern would emerge – and patterns are reproducible, patterns create order and order, in the end, is what society wishes from a home.  With his ability to store and re-use and purpose the waste, the mirrors get saved.

Dan Phillips has been building homes for a long time – in Huntsville, he has built about fifteen homes.  He also takes commissioned art work (and his homes are habitable art pieces) around the area.  Houston’s Discovery Green apparently has a gazebo made of cracked mirrors on it.  Critiquing Dan’s work, I enjoyed the design aesthetics (we saw/worked in the Bone House) and the accessibility of his crew’s work.  I didn’t ever get the impression his art was something brought down by some power above, but born of sweat, bone and creativity.  I filed away a few designs for future copyright infringement, er, homages.  I hope you check out his site, especially the flickr pictures.  They don’t do his work (or his team, he has a crew of three or so) justice.  Many thanks to him for sharing his time, work space and thoughts with us.

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