Whether you start with the Book of Genesis
or the Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
, we humans have long loved tales about creating a new world - or building one from scratch. Lloyd Kahn's new book, Builders of the Pacific Coast,
is primarily an account of builders and hand-crafted structures dating from the 60s to the 80s. Yet the rugged coastal setting of his odyssey - a blue and green world from Point Reyes Peninsula to Vancouver Island - invokes a simpler, more pristine time, an Eden of sorts. When forests grew down to the sea, building codes were few, lumber was plentiful (often free) and anyone with skill, a strong back and the courage to try could create something beautiful and enduring.
On every page of this book is something shocking and delightful. A boat with legs. A roof like a leaf. A caravan with eyes. A split-cedar woodshed shaped like a bird. Stair rails so sinuous and snakey they might come to life and grab you. Sculpted earth walls. Round windows and arched doors. Roofs curved like seagull wings. Grottos choked with ferns and flowers.
Not that there's any shortage of creatures and fantastical characters. Just off-camera lurk orcas, eagles and bears. And then there are the builders themselves. There hasn't been a cast of characters this colorful since Ken Kesey packed up his Underwood.
Builders of the Pacific Coast rolls on, mile after mile, in an odyssey so firsthand and vivid that you feel every rut in the road. And come to know, as Lloyd Kahn did, the soul of the place. The strong hands and big hearts of the people, the staggering abundance of the land and sea, the leaping joy that such a place still exists. --Mike Litchfield, West Marin Citizen, October 30, 2008
Lloyd Kahn has done it again. This gifted photographer and storyteller has created a beautiful, inspiring and imaginative book about natural human shelter made by ordinary, artful hands. With Builders of the Pacific Coast, Kahn focuses the lens of his camera on the hand built structures he discovered journeying along the Pacific coast north to British Columbia from his home near San Francisco. As with his previous book Shelter, and its sequel "Home Work", Kahn lets the buildings and the builders speak mostly for themselves.
These buildings speak of wood and water, broad landscapes and natural elements, and the men and women who integrate these resources and inspirations into shelter and assemblages of natural beauty. While much of the book focuses on homesteads, boats, sculptural buildings of driftwood and stone, and more than forty builders, Kahn gives more than a third of the book to feature the work of three unique builders, Lloyd House, Bruno Atkey and SunRay Kelley.
This choice is a wise one, as each of these men has created a body of work worthy of a book or two each. Read Builders of the Pacific Coast just to see what these builders have done with trees. The structures House makes by "... (getting) the bullet out of the gun and then (running) after it to get it to hit the right spot" are a conundrum of simplicity and intricate complex assembly. Kelley's sense of whimsy, mammoth scale and sublime organic freedom may remind one of Spain's Gaudi. In Kelly's work we are treated to equally exotic, massive and sculptural buildings but of whole trees, straw and clay. Pioneering surfer and tinkerer Atkey seems to have made or assembled everything around him, from his knife to his stove to the houses he's built with fine craftsmanship and love. One of Kahn's photos of an Atkey seaside homestead interior looks like a sketch by M.C. Escher come to life in 3-D color and speaks to both the skill of the builder and the photographer.
Lloyd Kahn has likely done more to bring the work of natural builders into public consciousness than just about anyone in recent times. Countless times in recent years I have been told by owner-builders, designers, architects and pioneers of the natural building movement that one of Lloyd's books inspired their projects. I look forward to the new creations inspired by this latest very good work by Lloyd Kahn and his Shelter Publications. --Jack Stephens, Natural Building Network
From the Author
I finished laying out the last two pages of this book on a Sunday afternoon. I felt kind of elated, since it'd been such a long haul -- three years from start to finish. I decided to sleep on the beach that night, as the next day was my birthday and I wanted to watch the sunrise from the beach.
I took off on foot from home, with a pack and sleeping bag. It was early evening and a northwest wind was blowing pretty hard. When I got to my usual spot on the beach (about three miles), lo and behold -- here was this little driftwood shack. Perfect. I crawled inside. It felt good. Shelter from the wind, cozy, nice touches. A starfish over the doorway. Boards carefully fitted, no nails.
I rolled out my tarp and sleeping bag, stashed my pack, took off my shoes, patrolled the beach, and came back in time to watch the sunset from inside.
It was a perfect ending to this book on coastal homes -- this random little soulful building, a temporary assemblage on the Pacific Ocean, by an anonymous free-spirited builder. Put together from driftwood brought to this spot by ocean currents. Shelter from the wind and fog; a place to get out of the sun, to take a nap, to listen to the waves, to watch the sunset, to sleep at night -- shelter as simple as a roof overhead.