Way back in 1976, architect genius Mickey Muennig designed and constructed this gorgeous glass domed "Greenhouse" in the round with open sky views at Big Sur, California. It looks so much like the solar natural buildings of cob and cordwood today except that it is stone and timber.
Studying organic architecture at the University of Oklahoma under Bruce Goff, Muennig then went in 1971 to Big Sur to a gestalt awareness study at Esalen Institute. (They offer a Beth Greer workshop in May 2013 on making your home healthy, among many others.) While at Esalen, Muennig was asked to build a home. He bought 30 acres on Partington Ridge, came up with this gem and lived in it for 18 years while he built a larger unique home for himself.
The 16-foot diameter glass tepee home's stone walls encircle the home, merge into the sloping hill, form a hearth for the fire, and end at the glass doors overlooking and opening towards the Pacific Ocean and a view of Partington Ridge. A reclaimed redwood platform bed hangs by steel rods above the bottom circular room and is reached by climbing up a pegged beam. A compression ring stabilizes the glass roof that provides plenty of light and solar heat. Anyone who has lived in a home near the ocean would wonder how the glass roof is kept clean of salt residue.
Muennig's home has an exceptionally small carbon footprint and is off the grid. The materials are natural. It was a study in passive solar and in summer-- interior drapes control the heat and the vented ceiling cap acts as thermostat; in winter, backup heat is supplied by the small fireplace. Big Sur's year-round climate is almost perfect, but it does get excessively high winds and frequent fires. Typically, Muennig designs homes with solar panels and propane backup, artesian wells for water, and saves energy with tankless water heaters for on demand hot water.
The worlds tallest trees, coastal sequoias, grow above the cliffs at the edge of the Pacific coastline. Note in the picture the dogs lounging on the roof of the second part of the building. Muennig said of this house, "“I learned to live in a small structure and I learned how to live very minimally.” The building is now used as a studio.
Other innovative and well-known buildings designed in the area by Muennig are the Esalen Baths, Post Ranch Inn, and Hawthorne Gallery. His website states "Architecture is more than a shelter; it bonds a continuous and worldwide mystery to its inhabitants," as exhibited here by his Greenhouse. The view could not get much more continuous than nearly 360 degrees.
The totally glass roof might be an issue in the mountains of Greenville, South Carolina when winter snows and ice arrive. But the concept of the small circular stone and block bottom, which easily could be cordwood, built into the side of the hills would work well. A good local supplier of stone work is R and P Masonary Inc, 157 Broadway Avenue, Tryon, NC 28782-3701, 828.859.0317, or Miller Masonry of NC, LLC, 1763 Golf Course Road, Columbus, NC 28722, 866.334.9544.