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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

A Conscious Collaborative

A Spotlight on Helicon Works Architecture

by Sam Hudgins
Most people would label Helicon Works Architecture (HWA) collaborative as green or sustainable. However, founder and principle architect Bill Hutchins prefers to think of it simply as architecture with a conscious. He notes, “For me, it should just be good architecture.”

Officially opening in 1989, Helicon Works Architecture morphed into a virtual collaborative in 2006 with the building of Hutchins’ home. Hutchins and his wife, Beth Knox, the landscape designer and gardener in the collaborative, wanted to build a home to share. With their plan and a desire to preserve environment in mind, they used community-inclusive straw bale construction—having friends and volunteer groups help build their home. The attention this building method garnered not only brought work to Hutchins, but also brought new artisans and companies who wished to work with him, as well.

Each member of the collaborative has their own business and works on projects through HWA, as they are needed and available. The collaborative currently consists of 12 members, including architects, natural builders, a project manager, a lighting designer, a wood artisan, a metal craftsman, a renewable energy systems building scientist, a landscape designer and an interior designer. Once a month, the members come together, either virtually or in person, to have what Hutchins calls “beer talks.” This not only allows them to bounce project ideas off each other, but allows them to catch up as friends, as well.

Hutchins’ home is truly a place of sharing. In addition to being Hutchins’ architecture office, it has been used for yoga classes, church services and other various events. One of these events was to support The Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco-Foundation (KRMEF), an organization created to encourage a sustainable practices in a village in Nepal. After befriending the founder of KRMEF, Krishna Gurung, Hutchins helped establish a method of building using waste glass waste bottles and earthen plaster.  Bill has also worked with them in developing other programs.

Each project brought to HWA varies in its approach, based on the needs and desires of both the client and place. Hutchins has a list of different exercises he offers to clients to help them fully explore home as an internal image. For instance, rather than talking about kitchen size, he asks clients to think about the life they’d like to live in their home. He may ask clients to go over their “home biography,” thinking of the places they have lived and focusing on their childhood home. Exercises like these help clients reveal the life they want to live in to their new home, which Hutchins then helps them embody in their home.

Along with his architecture services, Hutchins also offers daylong workshops. Though the workshops vary, they typically follow two main approaches. The first is for those who want to remodel or build a home. Using similar exercises that he does with clients, the workshop aims to help people create ecologically sensitive living space. The other workshop helps people connect consciously with the space they are already living in, and as Hutchins puts it, “connect more deeply with the stars, the Earth and each other.” The next workshop is planned for October 29.

Hutchins enjoys helping people expand outside themselves through workshops and wants to teach more in the future. He hopes the book he is currently working on, Dwelling, A Way Home, will create more possibilities for this in the future.

For more information about Helicon Works Architects and their upcoming workshop, visit

August 2020



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