When George Clarke of “George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces” and master craftsman, Will Hardie, took the UK-based reality show on a road trip across Texas in search of some interesting, unique, unusual spaces, they found a truly “Amazing Space”—Al Schwartz’s Robot Ranch.
“How unbelievable cool!” Clarke says, as the duo approach the 4,144 square-foot earth-sheltered Monolithic Dome home, built into the side of a hill.
To answer the question of how a Monolithic Dome home can be built to almost completely disappear into the landscape, “Amazing Spaces” walks the viewers through the Robot Ranch’s construction process.
The inflation of the unusually-shaped bright white air-formed membrane is shown, followed by a brief explanation of the application of polyurethane foam, the rebar installation and the spraying of the shotcrete layer. This process, originally patented by Monolithic’s David B. South and his brothers, makes a super-strong structure—strong enough to cover with earth and solid rock.
Al Schwartz meets Clarke and Hardie by climbing down from the rocky top of his house. Clarke comments that it looks like he is climbing down a mountain.
After his descent, Schwartz tells the pair he has been working on this remarkable home for nine and a half years, and not only that, he has moved every single rock himself—320 tons so far with 50 tons to go.
Schwartz’s dream of an underground home goes back to his childhood. He is now a computer programmer and spotted the perfect plot of land to build his dream home while driving with his parents. Schwartz has spent about a half million dollars building his two-story house.
The interior of the house is much bigger than one would think by looking at the outside. Schwartz leads Clarke and Hardie into the house through the upstairs entrance where they look down upon an expansive, curvaceous space filled with beautiful greenery.
During the home tour, we see a kitchen with custom curved cabinetry and a gorgeous personalized kitchen island, holding built-in images of Schwartz’s dream-home building process. We also see an indoor fountain, several peaceful bedrooms, a game room and a sunken indoor theater. “It’s half James Bond, half Thunderbirds,” says Clarke.
Light streams into the bottom floor from french doors. Another curved window gives the perfect amount of light for relaxing in Schwartz’s hammock. Clarke points out that each space just flows into the next.
Schwartz says his underground home is not only beautiful, it is energy-efficient. He estimates that his utility bills are half or less than a normal house. He has also added solar panels, reducing his energy consumption even more. He plans to add a windmill and become self-sufficient.
Inside and out, Schwartz’s Monolithic Dome home is green—it even looks green. “The building literally is the landscape,” Clarke comments.
The Robot Ranch is definitely one of our favorite dome homes. Watch the “Amazing Spaces” segment below…we think you’ll agree.