domes (29)

The Owl House

Last week we got an email from Maria Michaelson, who lives with her husband in the Pacific Northwest on a piece of land on which there are numerous innovative buildings, sculptures, boats, a house bus, and a variety of imaginative constructions. It’s called the Alchemy Art Center.

These buildings are mostly built by my husband, Eben Shay, although we live in a community of 8, so we have all been involved in building them. Eben is a boat builder, so he is always making everything curved. We live in the Pacific Northwest, on San Juan Island. And when we bought our property 6 years ago (with some of the buildings there but needing new roofs and reconstruction) we were very inspired by your Shelter books. We have started a nonprofit art center on the property to host artists in residence and art classes.

Also on Instagram:

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The Red Rockers’ Dome Commune in Colorado in the ’70s

The Red Rockers’ 60-foot dome in Colorado, built from math in Domebook One. Jack Fulton and I dropped in on them unannounced on a snowy Saturday night in 1972 when we were on a trip shooting photos for Shelter (published in 1973). We lucked into a venison dinner and then a rock-and-roll band in a small nearby town.

The Rockers had moved to Colorado from LA and built the communal dome.

But as time passed, couples wanted more privacy and began building little outlying sheds.

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Whatever Happened to Geodesic Domes?

Kyle Thiermann interviewed me a month or so ago about geodesic domes. Kyle and I met each other through our mutual good friend Chris Ryan. (Both Kyle and Chris write on Substack, which I intend to do when I finish the book I’m working on now, Live from California.

I drive my old RV down Kahn’s dirt road and park outside his house. He purchased the lot in 1971 for six grand. He built his home with materials from a salvaged lumber from torn down Navy barracks at Treasure Island. Abalone shells decorate his yard and shimmer in the gray winter light. He greets me with a matter of fact “Hello,” then offers a calloused paw. Kahn has a white mustache, long white hair, and knife holstered at his hip. He looks a bit like an outdoorsy version of Albert Einstein. When I comment on the knife he leads into his toolshed, showing me how I can fashion a blade myself.

‘Do you want a skateboard?’ He offers, pointing to three that lay on the corner…

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Shelter’s First Five Books

Last week, Kyle Theirmann, surfer, skater, journalist, and pal of Chris Ryan’s came here to do a podcast of me talking about the ’60s, about which he is doing a book based on the fact that a lot of millennials (he’s 32) are aware that something happened then, but don’t know exactly what.

To start out, I gave him a thumbnail description of our first books, and I got him to shoot this video on my camera.

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Exhibition of Shelter Books in Berlin Now

Article and video of exhibition of our books, Domebook One, Domebook 2, and Shelter in Berlin (translated from the German). This is the same exhibit, that was at the Biennale Architettura in Venice in 2021, titled “There Are Walls that Want to Prowl” (a line from a poem by Richard Brautigan that was in Shelter.) The exhibit runs in Berlin until January 15, 2023.

For my adventures in Venice last year, see:

Actually, Lloyd Kahn is not an architect. Nevertheless, he builds houses himself and writes about how people can live in harmony with nature. A new exhibition at the German Architecture Center in Berlin shows its utopian power.

How would we like to live?

“In the early 1970s he was already dealing with the questions that still concern us today,” says critic Laura Helena Wurth: How do we want to live together, in small families, large communities and what can that look like? Do we want to live in homes treated as commodities, or more in tune with nature?

His first experiments with building forms and typologies resulted in “domes,” round tents. At the opening of the exhibition in Berlin, Kahn admitted his mistake from back then: “Domes don’t work.” One cannot add to these round, closed constructions. According to Wurth, we can learn from him for the way we build today, that we need flexible architecture that can adapt.

Kahn’s life consists of mistakes, he told the curators, and back then he made a mistake that he had to correct. So Kahn stopped printing his book Domebook 2 and published Shelter.

Don’t build for eternity

According to Wurth, Kahn’s architecture is one that also breaks down. And then evolves. The builder recedes behind it and the people who live in it come to the fore. “Sustainable does not mean that something has to last forever. If we build a house out of concrete today, the CO2 emissions will go through the roof.” A house made of wood could break down, but would have a much better ecological balance.

According to Wurth, however, this idea is difficult to implement in an urban environment like Berlin. It’s also about space. Nevertheless, there is an “uncanny utopian power” in these works by Lloyd Kahn.

The exhibition “There Are Walls that Want to Prowl” can be seen until January 15, 2023 at the German Architecture Center in Berlin.

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Shelter Exhibition Opens This Friday in Berlin


The exhibit, which was originally at the Architettura Biennale in Venice last year, is moving to Berlin and opening at the German Architecture Center this Friday, October 28.

Our books, Domebook One, Domebook 2, and Shelter are also on display in a large glass case. These models are based on drawings from those books.

Our exhibit was one of the first things you saw when entering the Arsenale di Venezia, the huge ship building complex in Venice (which was the largest industrial complex in Europe before the Industrial Revolution), now converted to exhibition space. Over 300,000 people visited the exhibition. When I was there with Lukas, there were crowds of people checking out our books and the models.

I’m flying to Berlin this Wednesday and will be doing a discussion with architect Leopold Banchini and curator Lukas Feireiss on hand-made housing and alternatives to traditional methods of building and living together. (And exploring Berlin — my first visit there.)

The title of the exhibit, There Are Walls That Want to Prowl is a line from the poem “Let’s Voyage Into the New American House” by Richard Brautigan, which was reprinted in Shelter.

More info at

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Exhibit of Shelter Books and Models Opens This Week in Berlin


From Lukas Feireiss in Berlin:

Friday evening October 28, we are opening our exhibition There Are Walls That Want to Prowl at the German Architecture Center (DAZ). Come, celebrate and discuss with us.

The exhibit was originally shown at the Biennalle Archittetura in Venice in 2021 and is an installation that combines building models from Lloyd Kahn’s books with architectural models by Leopold Banchini, interview footage, and photographs of Kahn’s home in California by Dylan Perrenoud. The exhibit was inspired by Kahn’s iconic books Domebook One, Domebook 2, and Shelter.

These three compendia of self-build architecture tell stories of alternative dwellings from nomadic structures in the Iron Age to contemporary mobile homes, consistently extolling ecological and self-reliant ways of living that liberate themselves from capital and production methods marked by alienation.

I’m pretty excited, taking off for a week in Berlin on Wednesday.

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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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