Travis Skinner’s Unique Anglerfish Sauna

Travis Skinner, whose 400-square-foot small home was featured in our book Small Homes (pp. 52–53), has written a book about his unique wood-fired sauna on wheels. The book is called AnglerFish Sauna: Material Based Design & Deep-Sea Sculpture, and is available at:

In his introduction, Travis says: “What inspired us to make a 17-foot model of a female Anglerfish that is a wood-fired sauna on wheels? These pages will lead you on a multimedia journey through the conceptual design, the process of construction, and meaning within the sculpture.”

The sauna is beautiful, exceptional, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s also built with meticulous craftsmanship.

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Fanjingshan Skytop Buddhist Temples in Southeastern China

China’s Guizhou province peering over at Mount Fanjing. Rising more than 100 meters above the surrounding landscape, visitors will need to climb almost 9,000 steps to reach the summit. Look closely at the image and you can see how the stairs wind up and around stone outcroppings and through a gorge.

The buildings you see perched at the top are two Buddhist temples — the Temple of the Buddha and the Temple of Maitreya — linked by a small footbridge.

Located in Tongren, Guizhou province, southeastern China, the highest peak of the Wuling Mountains, at 8,430 feet.

More info:

From Lew Lewandowski

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Shed Covered with Giant Slabs of Slate in Wales

Hi Lloyd.

I thought you might be interested in this small shed, alone in a field up the valley from my home in Southern Snowdonia, Wales. We’re in an area of old slate mining which began in the mid-19th century. and finished maybe 30-40 years ago. The slate slabs on this small outbuilding are between one and two inches thick.

Cheers, and all the very best to you from Corris, Wales.

–Neil Heath

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Golden Gate Bridge in the Fog

The mighty and ever-beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve been to the top (of the south tower), as well as underneath it in a kayak journey from my home beach into San Francisco.

Plus my dad went out on a plank walkway to the south tower when it was being built in 1933.

I got a connection with this bridge!

P.S.: The true designer of the bridge was Charles Alton Ellis, not Joseph Strauss. See John Van der Zee’s book, The Gate, on the true story of this elegant design.

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Sailboat and Humpback Whale in British Columbia

From David Shipway, a builder on Cortez Island, BC, Canada, regarding his catboat; his home and workshop are featured in Builders of the Pacific Coast.

It’s a fiberglass hull, modeled on a William Garden design, that has made my last 10 summers the best in my life! But as I was warned, it has definitely taken my time and attention away from maintaining some buildings here during the summer when it’s dry. I have quite a bit of roofing to do — in my 70’s now, but I’ll find some young bucks to help me.

The Humpback whale in the background of that photo is feeding on small fish that live under the aquaculture floats. These are passive shellfish enterprises, that unlike the salmon farms nearby, do not cause problems, and in fact are like floating artificial reefs, which increase the structural habitat biodiversity of this archipelago significantly, for birds, salmon and whales. Note the Bald Eagle, a white speck high above in the trees.

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Lightweight, Inexpensive, Quick-to-Build Structures

I got an Instagram message from Greg Ryan last week, and got him to write up this unique project:

I was trying to design a structure that could be used as an outdoor classroom space during Covid. I wanted it to be inexpensive and simple to build, to cover maximum space with minimal materials and something that would lend itself to community builds (or ‘unskilled labor’).

I was inspired by the usual suspects … Frei Otto, Buckminster Fuller, Amory Lovins, as well as my brother’s interest in ultralight aircraft design and how strong something could be while being very light and using minimal materials. I was also inspired by Bill Coperthwaite’s yurts and the outward leaning walls that create a built-in seat or bench back. The aesthetic draws on architecture found in Vermont, including covered bridges and barns.

I wanted something that could be built with minimal materials that were readily available, could be built in a shop and assembled quickly on site. Strong enough to survive Vermont winters, handle heavy snow loads, and strong winds. The resulting structure is extremely strong (as it is composed primarily of triangles), easy to assemble, and uses minimal materials.

The end result is a structure that looks modern, but also fits in with the traditional architecture of New England. Although the structures were originally designed to be outdoor classrooms, people are finding many uses for them, including shop space, lumber drying, boat houses, second garages, backyard covered decks, etc. A unique feature of the “RyanTruss” is that the entire building is laid out on a single template. This template is also a drill guide. The idea being that a community group could get together and build one of these with basic cordless tools.

In practice, this has proven a little more difficult than that, though we keep getting closer.

Over the past year, my sons Aidan and Casey have built over a dozen RyanTrusses and have worked to refine the building process as well as honing in on the best ways to assemble the structures onsite.
Read More …

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Three-Minute Video on Shelter Exhibit at Architettura Biennale in Venice

I just discovered this online. It was such an honor to be recognized at this exhibition. These were my hosts, architect/teacher Leopold Banchini (left) and artist/curator/teacher Lukas Feireiss (right). They both spent an afternoon here in our studio in 2019, planning the exhibit, which displayed our books Shelter, Domebook One, and Domebook 2, as well as stick models made from the buildings shown in our books.

I also just read that 300,000 people attended the exhibit, a biennial international architectural exhibition which was open from May to November in Venice. That means that maybe at least 100,000 people saw the Shelter exhibit, since it was just inside the entrance. Wow!

A bunch of posts from my trip to Venice in October:

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Tiny Home in Northern California

A month or so ago, I saw a unique elliptical wooden teardrop trailer in the surfers’ parking lot at Salmon Creek (Sonoma County). Inside was Mira Nussbaum, who was painting on a silk scarf. The trailer will be one of the units covered in our forthcoming book (publication date May-June, 2022), Rolling Homes. Mira told me she and her husband lived in a tiny home, and she sent these photos. A link to her art work is at

Our tiny house, Tree Song, was inspired by three years of visioning and design for a better way of life. We built this sanctuary so that we could take a step towards living our own beliefs and values in our day-to-day choices. Tree Song was built in 2010 from locally harvested and produced material sourced from local businesses who care about their ecological impact, furthering our intention to live a simple life connected to the land. Tree Song was built on a 22′ × 8′ trailer and is 13′ tall. This amazing home has been at two retreat centers on the East Coast, made an arduous cross-country journey, and now resides in Northern California where we have called it our home since 2017.

–Mira and Alex

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How We Drained California Dry

A story of remaking the land and taking the water until there was nothing left

Technology Review

This is how we’ve come to the point today, during the driest decade in state history, that valley farmers haven’t diminished their footprint to meet water’s scarcity but have added a half-­million more acres of permanent crops—more almonds, pistachios, mandarins. They’ve lowered their pumps by hundreds of feet to chase the dwindling aquifer even as it dwindles further, sucking so many millions of acre-feet of water out of the earth that the land is sinking. This subsidence is collapsing the canals and ditches, reducing the flow of the very aqueduct that we built to create the flow itself.

How might a native account for such madness?

No civilization had ever built a grander system to transport water. It sprawled farmland. It sprawled suburbia. It made rise three world-class cities, and an economy that would rank as the fifth largest in the world. But it did not change the essential nature of California. Drought is California. Flood is California. One year our rivers and streams produce 30 million acre-feet of water. The next year, they produce 200 million acre-feet. The average year, 72.5 million acre-feet, is a lie we tell ourselves.

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