During the countercultural revoluti on of the 1960’s Lloyd Kahn quit his job as an insurance broker and began work as a carpenter, eventually building four houses. He had little building experience, but learned on the job and through the process of building his own house he discovered a community of self-build enthusiasts, full of energy, ideas and willingness to share skills.
In 1970 Kahn set up Shelter Publications to champion the self-build approach, and inspire and empower fi rst-ti me housebuilders. His first book, Domebook One, was followed the next year with Domebook 2, which sold 175,000 copies. In 1971, he bought a half-acre lot in Bolinas, California, and built a shake-covered geodesic dome (later featured in Life magazine). After living in his dome for a year, Kahn decided domes did not work well: he stopped the printing of Domebook 2 and disassembled his dome. Disenchanted Kahn eventually renounced domes altogether in a pamphlet titled Refried Domes,
self-published on newsprint and distributed throughout the dome underground.
In 1973 Kahn produced Shelter, a homemade survey celebrating vernacular and alternative housing from around the world. It showed the evolution of building types and outlined the advantages of rectilinear construction. The examples in this book and those that followed are full of adventure, imagination, human resourcefulness and endeavour.
Shelter Publications was the forerunner of the current mainstream fascination with cabins and off-grid living. Through the years they have developed a cult following around the world and today they are inundated with contributions from readers sending in images and stories of their own self-build projects. These stories will be shared through the next publication, Small Homes, which is currently being edited by Lloyd Kahn and his team.
Lloyd Kahn, at the age of 80, continues to surf, paddleboard and skateboard from his home in Bolinas, a small town on the Pacific coast north of San Francisco, where he lives with his wife Lesley Creed, a gifted gardener and quilter.