Finally tuning in to big city

This is our seventh day in London. It’s an exciting place, especially compared to California. People are extremely kind, often offering help with directions. When we came up out of the tube (subway) on the way to the hotel, we got to a long flight of stairs, and when I started struggling to wheel my (50 lbs or so) bag up the stairs, a guy rushed up, picked it up and walked with me to the top. Dude!

A lot of the time I feel bewildered, a somewhat-country boy in fast-moving urbanism. But there are moments of sheer thrill, the excitement of things different. The first day here, I went to the basement bookstore of the Architectural Association (a trendy school of architecture) on Bedford Square, and found a wonderful selection of books. I discovered the German publisher Burkehäuser, which has a list of maybe 100 books in English. I’m going to buy three of them: Building with Earth, by Gernot Minke; Sustainable Design by Control and Review; and Building Integrated Photovoltaics.

We’ve got one week “Oyster” passes, which allow free usage of the tube and buses and they work great. Otherwise, the tube is about seven dollars a pop. Cabs are ultra-expensive. In fact this is the priciest place I’ve ever been, but you get a lot for yr. money. Food ranges from pretty good to great. Buildings, at least in this part of town, are mostly immaculate. The masonry has been cleaned of city soot, I would guess power-washed, so you see lots of magnificent design and craftsmanship.

By coincidence, our son Will and his bride Aine are here on their honeymoon, and were meeting them this afternoon to take a trip on the Thames and then walk down the south side of the river to London Bridge, to Tate Modern, Saint Paul’s, walk on the Millennium Bridge. Tomorrow the four of us will explore the city, and the next day Lesley and I are flying Ryanair to Cork, Ireland, where will pick up a small Volkswagen rental car and explore the West Coast of Ireland.

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:

2 Responses to Finally tuning in to big city

  1. Hey Lloyd,

    You might find reading about "urban stone decay" in Europe interesting; from what I gather, a lot of it is due to modern pollution and is more than just cosmetic, and has required exhaustive cleaning, repair, and stabilization to halt it.

    I found this with a google search:

    but there's a lot more written on the topic, including a New Yorker article I can't put my hands on right now.

    Have a great trip!

  2. Hi,

    We were just over in the UK and Ireland. If you're going to be on the west coast, you might find:

    interesting. Particularly neat were exhibits of everyday items made out of woven straw (and other suitable materials – willow, reeds, etc.) by the money- and materials-poor inhabitants. Check out the complete horse harness made of straw, straw chairs a hundred years old, and 'straw-boy' costumes if you get a chance.

    Cheers, and hope it isn't blowing as hard for you guys as it was for us!

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