My Take on the ’60s

Jim Morrison said once that when they (The Doors) finished a record, only then were they released to start thinking about the next one. When I finished Small Homes, I couldn’t think what to do next. I’d sort of run the gamut of 9″x12′ building books, each with about color 1000 photos, from Home Work to Small Homes. Retire? No way! I’m just getting warmed up.

About the same time there was an explosion of articles, TV specials, museum exhibits, and conferences rehashing “The Summer of Love.” (Yes, I know I’ve written this before, but I’m further into it all now.)

Since my take on the years was so different from everything being written or presented, I decided to write my own version of the ’60s. (I was there.) The project seemed to gather momentum as I proceeded. I started having fun. I hadn’t looked back at those times in any sort of organized way, and I found myself not only marveling at what happened, but having new insights with the perspective of 5 decades.

Plus, the 60s weren’t an abstraction for me. The concepts, the spirit, the new knowledge profoundly changed my life. (I just realized this now.)

Stop, children, what’s that sound,

Everybody look—what’s going down.

                             -Buffalo Springfield

What started as a rebuttal to the current media ’60s hoopla has turned out to be a fascinating look back at some unbelievable times. It’s gone from negative to positive.

For example, in looking at the photos from Pacific High School, where we built 17 geodesic domes in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the late ’60s, I am seeing how unique it was—what we did. The good part only lasted a year (much like the Haight-Ashbury, there was an incredible period of energy, light,  and joy, followed by desolation), but for a short period of time, we were on to something.

It turns out I have a trove of my black and white photos from the ’60s, and they’re bringing back some memories. Did we really do that?

Here’s a collage shot with my iPhone. These kids were building their own homes (they ended up leaking, but that was the fault of the designer—me. People from all over were coming to see what we were doing, including Life and Time magazines. We were rolling.

I’m thinking of posting sections from the book as I go along.

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:

6 Responses to My Take on the ’60s

  1. Yes, please post sections as you go. All of us who lived through that period could benefit from new insights.

  2. I am past retirement age and have lived in the Midwest all my life. Only within the past few years have I visited all the stomping grounds of the Whole Earth Catalogue, from Menlo Park to Monterrey and Santa Cruz with some reverence and sadness in my heart. I still have the Dome Book and Shelter. Your work profoundly effected me intellectually. I prefer your observations on that time period as opposed to all these younger and Johnny-come-lately folks. I have found old folks with nothing to lose or gain to be some of the most honest and blunt-spoken folks who exist. My guess is you will precisely do that for that time period in my opinion.

  3. I love what I've read about Pacific High School. Teaching kids to build their own homes sounds like teaching them to aspire to personal autonomy with control over the essentials of their own lives – viz., to freedom – very different from today's mortgage trap & associated rackets. I wonder could you even do that now?


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