In the past I’ve written about the Heineken WOBO (World Bottle) that was intended to double as functional building material for inhabitants of impoverished areas. I still think that’s one of the coolest ideas ever. I mean, people are going to drink beer no matter what. And homelessness sucks. So why not use some good old-fashioned human ingenuity to address the problem?
Today, I stumbled upon a similar kind of story: The Beer Can House in Houston, TX. Now, this isn’t so much about general poverty nor is it a particularly replicable idea. But it is pretty freaking amazing.
Apparently, the story goes like this: John Milkovisch was a man who was indelibly shaped by the Great Depression. He learned to abhor waste above all else. He was a good man, and a hard-working one too. He’d come home from his job at the railroad company (where he reupholstered rail cars), and sit out on the back porch with his wife, Mary, sucking down a few cans of suds as a reward for another day done. Of course, each can finished didn’t get carelessly discarded. No, John saved each and every one, figuring “Well, heck, I might use this one day. No sense in throwing out a good scrap of aluminum.”
The cans collected in his attic or garage or wherever it was that his wife allowed him to indulge his thriftiness. Then one day, in the early 70’s, John had an idea. “I see all these houses with aluminum siding. And I’ve got lots of aluminum. Hmmmmm…” The rest is history.
He painstakingly cut open and flattened his more than 50,000 collected beer cans and essentially wall papered the outside of his home with his own innovative aluminum siding. He hung decorative beer can garlands from the eaves and gutters. Really, he just did what came natural to him.
Unsurprisingly, this drew some attention and the home quickly became a Houston landmark. Even today, many years after both John and Mary have passed away and the once working-class neighborhood has evolved into an upper-class collection of lofts and condos, the Beer Can House remains. In fact, it’s now under the permanent stewardship and restorative guidance of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art (a publicly funded non-profit dedicated to encouraging creative self-expression). If you’re ever in the area, go check it out! We plan to do the same.