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Builders of the Pacific Coast Paperback – October 28, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

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.
-LK
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Shelter Publications, Inc.; 1St Edition edition (October 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0936070439
  • ISBN-13: 978-0936070438
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.7 x 12.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jack Fulton on November 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
Living on the west coast I can see on a daily basis the influence of books on shelter by Lloyd Kahn. This latest effort is filled with in-depth coverage of over 40 unique builders/crafts-people, a lot of whom are in British Columbia. These are all what I'd call true homes built by people who are skilled but are artisans creating their own dwellings. One can barely read a page without getting an idea to do something creative for their own home. The photographs and writing are top notch and Lloyd's experience as a builder, as a communicator, as an avid environmentally conscious individual allows each person and place to come alive. This is a table top book one wants others to peruse when visiting. One does not need to move to the rural areas for the essence of such living is held within the over 250 pages of this beautiful visual hymn to the creative builder.
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I bought this book as a present for my daughter who lives in California. Of course, I didn't send it without giving it a quick once over. I loved it so much I've ordered another copy for my wife and myself. The choices of builders and examples of their art are wonderful and the photography is beautiful. I wish I was young enough to attempt some of these buildings. Sigh...
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I've been coveting a lot of my neighbors' houses while browsing "Builders of the Pacific Coast" (Shelter Publications) by Lloyd Kahn, a photo-splashed book full of amazing, rustic, wood-built dwellings and shelters on islands and in other remote seaside locations in the Pacific Northwest.

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
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this is a great book with lots of ideas and imagination. you will want to crawl inside and live in this book. just wish there was more how to do it but well worth the money. anyone wanting to live an alternative lifestyle or build an amazing house with wood should have this book for inspiration and ideas.
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This book is about freedom and beauty, building and soul. As a builder in France, it is so inspiring to have this book around and be able to connect to all these amazing people and projects. It helps me remember why I wanted to learn building, and that yes it is possible to build from the whole of being, hands, head and heart. It helps me believe in my visions even when other beliefs tell me they're too crazy.

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!
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Good pictures for ideas, which is part of what we wanted, we just wish this book had either limited 'schematic drawings or how-to information' to go along with the pictorials. We plan on getting books to supplement this one, AND finding the village elder or "Mr Miyagi", to help us as we try to "make what the pictures show". Again, not bad.
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you'll be provided with many innovative and unique and yet practical in function (can't say in form as these are one of a kind) - loved the book - it gave me many ideas and encouraged me to try myself... maybe you will too!~?!.
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Some interesting ideas illustrated in the country back west to let the out east boys know that creativity does not rise with the sun, but falls, instead, wherever it will as circumstances provide and necessity requires.
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