Michael Kahn, 1936-2007 & Eliphante

My cousin Michael Kahn died on the Winter Solstice, December 21. He was an artist who lived on the banks of a river in Arizona with his wife Leda, and he’d built a village of wild free-form buildings over the years. There were 10 pages on his work in our book Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter, including the pic below:

Mike built this room out of salvaged auto windshields, glued together with silicone caulk and decorated with stained glass. He got the idea for the silicone joinery and the inspiration for free-form building from our 1973 book Shelter.

Mike was one year younger than me and we looked a lot alike — our dads were brothers.

We played together a lot as kids and when I went to Stanford, he went to UC Santa Barbara, where he threw the javelin on the track team. We lived in adjacent cottages in Mill Valley in the ’60s, and I went to hang out with him when he moved to Provincetown, Mass., in 1965 — just before I quit my job as an insurance broker to start working as a carpenter.

Mike was a gentle soul. He never did anything but his art, all his life. Painting, sculpting, building. He called his place Eliphante, and in recent years people from all over the world have come to visit, in spite of its hidden location. To get there you have to cross a river in a canoe.

On January 31, the NY Times did a large article on Mike titled: A Handmade Home

If you’re interested in Gaudí/Watts Towers-type architecture, see Mike’s website at:


About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

3 Responses to Michael Kahn, 1936-2007 & Eliphante

  1. I've read home work so many times it's starting to wear out. Your cousins house is my favorite part of a great book. Can't wait till the next one. My condolences and best wishes.
    Leo from New Jersey

  2. I just drove through Cornville today, wondering how things were going at Elephante. You first sent me there years ago after I visited Bolinas with my mother. I haven't been back since that first wonderful visit, but your cousin and his wife have often been in my prayers. Here at Arcosanti, just to the south, Eliphante has always been a source of delight. Mike will be well remembered and remain a great source of inspiration.

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