The Barefoot Architect
The Barefoot Architect
Table of Contents
Sample Chapter
About the Author

The Barefoot Architect

“It's the book I keep in my bathroom.”

–Beth Bosk, editor
New Settler Magazine
Mendocino, CA

“This is the first English translation from a 1982 Portuguese guide to building just about everything needed for human habitation. Van Lengen is the founder of the Bio-Architecture and Intuitive technology school in Brazil. In clear prose, illustrated on almost every page, he explains how to build a home, provide power, water and sanitation, plant a garden and live compatibly with the environment. Many of the examples are intended for people living in areas where, through isolation or poverty, building materials need to be found locally. He arranges the sections on home building by climate and gives several alternate methods for power and sanitation depending on local conditions. The only question is why did it take so long for this immensely useful book to appear in English?"

–SciTech Book News
June, 2008

"Shelter Publications has long been an advocate of grass-roots appropriate technology, as evidenced by the titles they’ve promoted over the years. Now, Shelter has released The Barefoot Architect by Johan van Lengen, the first English translation of the very popular Spanish-language book that was widely circulated in Latin America in the 1980’s.

Subtitled A Handbook for Green Building, van Lengen’s 720-page text is really about simplicity and the beauty of indigenous building, reinforcing the benefits of basic design and simple materials. It is very much an instructive work, with over 1,200 straightforward line drawings and uncomplicated explanations meant for people who simply want to get a job done and a cozy roof over their heads.

Don’t look for stunning photography-- there is none. What is inside, however, includes the things that, as an elementary builder, you’ll need to know about climate, site design, natural building techniques, foundation-to-roof construction, solar and biomass heating and ventilation, water purification and management, and composting sanitary systems. The methods addressed are a combination of tradition and modern techniques.”

BackHome Magazine

“In the early 1970s, Johan van Lengen moved from San Francisco to Brazil to work on housing for the disadvantaged. He and his wife founded the Bio-Architecture and Intuitive Technology institute to focus on alternative technology. In 1982, while working in Mexico, he wrote The Barefoot Architect, a comprehensive guide to building simple houses using both traditional and modern methods. Although geared towards the southern latitudes (with passive solar gain coming from the North, for example), the book contains a wealth of information about natural materials, passive design strategies, and design for several different climates.”


“After my wife and I had finished writing The Straw Bale House and were beginning work in Mexico on a number of projects, we came across this book during our travels. We loved it so much we set out trying to find out where we could get more copies. The search took us to a bookstore in Mexico City where we bought several cases to bring back to the States. They were so popular with friends that we gave away/sold all of them in almost no time at all. It's just a marvelous little book with simple but very clear illustrations. Quite truthfully I'm totally amazed that Lloyd Khan the publisher came across this book and decided to print it in English. But then again, that's what makes Lloyd the entertaining publisher that he is.”

–Bill Steen, author
The Strawbale House