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Perfect Harmony

When the morning sun rises over the cornfields of Iowa, Michael and Shellie Lackman’s log home is ready and waiting to greet it. Facing true east, the Swiss Vedic-style chalet is blessed with an abundance of floor-to-ceiling windows. Elegant sunburst-shaped panes are tucked beneath a trio of gables. By midmorning, the kitchen, living room and second-story sunroom are bathed in radiant light and the milled logs of Canadian northern white pine have a golden glow.

Like most Vedic architecture, the Lackmans’ home faces east to absorb the energy of the morning sun and uses natural, nontoxic materials to bring the building’s residents into harmony with the cosmos. “It always feels very light---it is a visual quality and a quality of the spirit,” says Michael Lackman, a former telecommunications executive who moved his family to Fairfield, Iowa, 20 years ago to escape the stresses of big city life on both coasts.

Today, the Lackmans’ natural lifestyle encompasses transcendental meditation (TM), a web-based business selling organic clothing, and a contemporary log home built according to a holistic design system that originated in ancient India.

“Log homes are green, natural and nourishing—it’s an unbelievable product if you consider it,” says Doug Greenfield, president of Fairfield,Iowa-based Maharishi Global Construction (MGC), who originally built the home for his own family. “What we’ve added here are mathematical formulas for Vedic dimensioning, placement of rooms and so forth. It’s such a powerful combination to throw together with a log home.”

When the Lackmans lost their first Vedic home to a highway bypass and needed space to grow their business, Greenfield was persuaded to sell them the 8,200-square-foot log home. “Michael is a big open-spaces kind of guy. He needed a house like that,” says Greenfield, who clearly enjoys building a sequence of dream homes more than settling down in any one of them.

The inspiration for the grand home that Greenfield refers to as “heaven on earth” came from the 33,000-square-foot log building in Vlodrop, Holland, that serves as the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s international headquarters. “I had a picture of that building on my desk as I was designing the house,” says architect Carmen Quinton of Quinton and Associates, who is also a certified consultant in Maharishi Vedic architecture. The home’s rectangular shape, sun porch, Vedic columns and banisters with stylized lotus designs, and the golden hue of its logs echo the Dutch original.

“This was a very challenging project because I’d never built with logs before, but we put together a really fabulous home,” says Greenfield who worked with Outaouais Log Homes of Wakefield, Quebec. “We were very careful to pick a company that is very selective about the way they harvest their logs.”

When Greenfield visited the Outaouais forest in northern Quebec, he was impressed by the thousands of acres of northern white pine and the quality of the wood. As Jacques Patenaude of Outaouais Log Homes explains, “All of our logs come from live, healthy, slow-growth trees that are winter-cut and naturally seasoned for six months to one year. We take the ones that we want and let the other ones grow.”

The Lackman home was made from 6-inch square northern white pine timbers. “Our logs adapted well to the project because they wanted a square-shaped log,” says Patenaude. “Where the two logs meet, you have a V-joint that comes in and goes out to the next log, which is very attractive. And they’re all heartwood logs, the best part of the tree.”

Patenaude was impressed by the amount of timber required for the Lackman home.Most of the interior walls were also built of solid timber. The walls that aren’t load bearing are pine boards that have the same look. A standard-size Outaouis home, plus windows and doors, would fit on one truck, Patenaude notes, but six trucks were required just to transport the milled logs for Greenfield’s one home. A supervisor went along to help with the construction.

Vedic architecture requires more than a thousand precise calculations and can’t be more than one-eighth of an inch off. “The application of this knowledge has been made very systematic and for a builder it’s not complicated,” says Greenfield, whose company provides Maharishi Vedic architecture consultants for projects throughout North America.

“First of all, I’ll have the surveyor lay out the cardinal directions on the property. We mark out everything that we’re doing and basically the log contractor just follows the dimensions on the blueprints.” The Lackmans’ home was two years in the planning due to its size and the variety of building materials. Because the windows on the east side are basically just a wall of glass, it took a while to get all of the engineering worked out, says Lackman, whose family moved into the house in May 2001.

Fairfield, whose population is just shy of 10,000 is known nationally as “Silicorn Valley,” thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of the more than 3,000 meditators like the Lackmans who moved here and have created successful businesses. The influx set the stage for the construction of more than 300 Vedic homes in Jefferson County, including the newly chartered Maharishi Vedic City, where all of the homes face east.

To read the rest of this article see the Summer 2005 issue of Luxury Log Homes & Timber Frame or email me.