Natural Energy Design

The Making (and Unmaking) of The Energy Pavilion

A patchwork tower of timber and machine parts rose on a patch of grass in front of Wurster Hall in the spring of 1973: the final project for a Van der Ryn and Campe studio on Natural Energy Design. After intensive research informed by the few books and journal articles available on the topic, students compiled a 150-page document, The Natural Energy Handbook.
Built of lumber salvaged from a demolished Hayward barn, the Energy Pavilion included a wind generator, a prototype solar collector manufactured in Wurster Hall shop facilities, a stationary bike that drove an electrical generator and grain mill, a rainwater reservoir, a greenhouse bedded with lettuce and snow peas, and a composting toilet. The odd-looking structure was, in fact, the freestanding service core for an ecologically autonomous house.
The quirky tower attracted lines of visitors – and the attention of the Campus Esthetics Committee, which demanded that the unsightly structure be dismantled before June commencement exercises. That October, a punitive spike in oil prices by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries created the first global energy crisis – but in the mean time, the CED’s homegrown experiment in eco-design had vanished.