Don ZanFagna, visionary and eco-artist, dies

ZanFagna left a legacy of self-sustaining homes and extreme eco-architecture

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Don ZanFagna, the man behind the ultra-eco-houses, or Pulse Domes, that filled the Halsey Institute last September, passed away last week at the age of 84, according to the Post and Courier

ZanFagna was an artist and teacher who became obsessed with the idea for a Pulse Dome, a self-sustaining structure that was more akin to animal architecture — warrens, beaver mounds, etc. — than human. Built with organic materials, the Pulse Domes were intended to be sustainable in the most extreme sense. They would produce their own energy, grow crops, and be in perfect harmony with its environment. 

His ideas don't sound so crazy nowadays, with architects around the world creating homes that heat and cool themselves and have eco-touches like green roofs and rainwater capture systems. But no one yet has gone as far as ZanFagna did when he was creating his drawings and models back in the 1960s and '70s. As the Halsey's Mark Sloan said in our cover story on ZanFagna last year, "I honestly think that this material, once it's out in the world and in circulation, I think it can actually have an effect ... My hope would be that once this material is released into the world, people will say 'Well, you know, here was a guy that was really onto something.'"

Here's what Sloan had to say on the event of ZanFagna's passing:

"It was a career highlight for me to present Don ZanFagna's work here at the Halsey Institute. He was the last of what I might call the 'comprehensivist breed.' What I mean is, he was considering the question of human habitation from multiple perspectives simultaneously. He was first concerned with the global impact that human civilizations have had on the planet. In his notebooks, he outlined all sorts of data he had uncovered about world population growth over history, pollution, disease, famine, biological systems, etc. We need someone with such a depth of understanding now more than ever. I especially enjoyed Don's humanity and warmth. He will be sorely missed."

You can read the full story and see a small gallery of ZanFagna's pioneering works here

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