As skyscrapers around the world continue climbing higher and higher, we pause this week to celebrate some buildings that are a little more down to earth — literally. Tuesday, May 14, marks Underground America Day.

According to National Day Calendar, approximately 6,000 people in North America reside in some kind of underground architecture. No, they are not hobbits (as far as we know). Many people who choose subterranean living do so to help the environment.

Earth-sheltered homes are built into the land on at least three sides, keeping energy use to a minimum. An engulfed home allows for more stable temperatures throughout the home as well as less exposure to the elements. On the downside, it's hard to open the windows to let a nice breeze come in.

Underground America Day was created by "the father of modern earth-sheltered architecture," Malcolm Wells, in 1974. He died in 2009.

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On his website, Malcolmwells.com, he is quoted as saying, "I woke up one day to the fact that the Earth's surface was made for living plants, not industrial plants." He said the homes where we live should match nature's pace.

"We live in an era of glitzy buildings and trophy houses: big, ugly, show-off monsters that stand — or I should say stomp — on land stripped bare by the construction work and replanted with toxic green lawns," he said. "If the buildings could talk they would be speechless with embarrassment, but most of us see nothing wrong with them, and would, given the opportunity, build others like them, for few of us realize that there's a gentler way to build."

Wells' idea of these more gently built dwellings have caught on around the world, including in Australia, where an entire town was constructed underground.

The Earth-loving architect had a good sense of humor about the day he declared 45 years ago this week. He said he knew hundreds of millions of people will do absolutely nothing to celebrate underground living, but that was OK with the World War II Marine and former Harvard teacher. Wells said he just wanted people to leave the land no worse than they found it — and living as close to Earth as possible was a start.

Other holidays this week

  • Monday, May 13: Apple Pie Day
  • Tuesday, May 14: Dance Like a Chicken Day
  • Wednesday, May 15: Chocolate Chip Day
  • Thursday, May 16: Sea Monkey Day
  • Friday, May 17: Bike to Work Day
  • Saturday, May 18: HIV Vaccine Awareness Day
  • Sunday, May 19: Take Your Parents to the Playground Day

The Monday Mark is a weekly feature celebrating the most unusual holidays of the week.