by Lloyd Alter
August 12, 2014
This book is everything that TreeHugger tries not to be, and it is just totally captivating.
Since its inception, TreeHugger has been “partial to a modern aesthetic.” As an architect, I am even more so, and the tiny houses, RVs and trailers shown on TreeHugger have tended to lean toward the sleek and modern. This is certainly the first time a hippied up VW van has graced the pages here.
Lloyd Kahn was the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, and wrote the classic book Shelter in 1973, a bible to architecture students of the era. He is still at it, documenting the Tiny House movement with a series of extraordinary books including Tiny Homes/ Simple Shelter and his latest, Tiny Homes on the Move. It shows 90 trailers, bus conversions, vans, pickups, sailboats and houseboats that range from the really tiny and mobile to full-blown houses on wheels. But there is not a Winnebago in sight; with few exceptions, they are all ones of a kind.
Bernard Rudofsky described Architecture without Architects: “vernacular architecture does not go through fashion cycles. It is nearly immutable, indeed, unimprovable, since it serves its purpose to perfection.” Many of these homes are exactly that; they are lovingly built by their occupants, often over many years. Most will be new to readers of blogs; Kahn writes:
“We have something unique here. We’re not just fishing around on the Internet, as is so commonly done these days. We’re generating our own content: these people and stories are coming directly to us. Most of it is brand new, and there’s a chain of continuity. No other website or blog has this focus or a network like this.”
He goes on to say that “It feels a bit now like it did 40+ years ago” except with Internet time to get content, enabling him to put out a new book every two or three years. And it looks like 40+ years ago its graphic layout and much of the content.
But what a treasure trove it is, an entire book showing the work of people “who have chosen to build and inhabit homes that are tiny and mobile. They don’t pay rent to a landlord nor do they have lifetime mortgage obligations to the bank.”
They also are not subject to building codes or many zoning bylaws as long as they stay small and mobile. The result is an explosion of creativity, some amazing craftsmanship and more treehugging hippies than I have seen in 40 years. Every page is a wonder, a jumble of thousands of photos and all the tech specs you want to know.
So follow the Shelter Blog to get a taste of it, then put on your bell-bottoms and run out to your nearest independent bookstore and buy Tiny Homes on the Move. In fact, collect them all; I am running out to buy Tiny Homes Simple Shelter.