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Builders of the Pacific Coast Paperback – October 28, 2008
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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.
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More About the Author
I set off to learn the art of building in 1960. I liked the whole process immensely. Hammering nails. Framing -- delineating space. Nailing down the sub-floor, the roof decking. It's a thrill when you first step on the floor you've just created.
Ideally I'd have worked with a master carpenter long enough to learn the basics, but there was never time. I learned from friends and books and by blundering my way into a process that required a certain amount of competence. My perspective was that of a novice, a homeowner -- rather than a pro. As I learned, I felt that I could tell others how to build, or at least get them started on the path to creating their own homes.
Through the years I've personally gone from post and beam to geodesic domes to stud frame construction. It's been a constant learning process, and this has led me into investigating many methods of construction -- I'm interested in them all. For five years, the late '60s to early '70s, I built geodesic domes. I got into being a publisher by producing Domebook One in 1970 and Domebook 2 in 1971.
I then gave up on domes (as homes) and published our namesake Shelter in 1973. We've published books on a variety of subjects over the years, and returned to our roots with Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter in 2004, The Barefoot Architect in 2008, Builders of the Pacific Coast in 2008, and Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter in 2012.
Building is my favorite subject. Even in this day and age, building a house with your own hands can save you a ton of money (I've never had a mortgage) and -- if you follow it through -- you can get what you want in a home.
Top Customer Reviews
The area's huge trees and ubiquitous driftwood lend themselves to curvaceous, organic design, and these builders take full advantage of these qualities in structures that range from a Hobbit-like gazebo to a spherical treehouse to grand but still-earthy luxury homes and spas. Many of the homes are reachable only by boat and perched in impossibly beautiful settings.
There's a strong countercultural thread to these builders, many of whom were inspired by Kahn's 1973 book "Shelter," a bible of sorts for that decade's back-to-the-land movement. And Kahn's laid-back writing style is full of metaphysical allusions and meandering asides about his travels, giving it a whiff of patchouli and B.C. bud. But looking at these homes, it's hard to doubt that there's "a vortex of creative carpentry energy in this part of the world," as the book states. Moss roofs, bentwood railings, hand-carved details, natural motifs, and Native influences complement the area's mossy, foggy splendor and speak to its natural and human history.
--Keith Goetzman, senior editor, Utne Reader
I met this book after Homework and Shelter. I knew it existed but somehow I thought it would be less thrilling and rich that the two others which go all around the world. The Pacific coast is far from France! But it quickly became my favorite book and companion. I ordered it while I am building my own house, and it helped me to nourish my vision and make right (soulful, beautiful) decisions. I-love-this-book!
Being a builder of sorts myself (I've been renovating historic homes for years, but have moved to the SF Bay area in '07 and haven't done any since, due to the real estate market) I feel completely inspired and am chomping at the bit to do another major project.
I can recommend this book to anyone that is interested in building beyond the 'cookie-cutter'.
I found it quite interesting that most of the builders in this book all own a copy of "Shelter". I guess what goes around comes around. And if your reading this Lloyd, I do look forward to yet newer editions of the "Shelter" series of books in the future.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
LOVE this book. It has given me many ideas for building my own home and the houses and details are wonderful. Tons of colourful photos. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Samantha Seale
I bought this when I was building my first house and it inspired me to think outside the box and be creative about finishing. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Jimmy
Received this book as a gift shortly after purchasing my first home, a run down 1896 bungalow in PNW. Read morePublished 22 months ago by AC