Shelter Cookbook Takes a Fresh Look at Lloyd Kahn’s Legacy

Edited by architects Leopold Banchini and Lukas Feireiss, the book provides an intimate look into the home of 85-year-old publisher, builder, and storyteller, and the influence of his self-build books on sustainable building.

At 85 years old, American publisher, builder, and storyteller Lloyd Kahn continues to provide tools and inspiration for those interested in self-building homes, as he has for decades. Kahn’s iconic counterculture publications on organic architecture from the 1960s and ’70s still feel relevant considering today’s ecological crisis—his 1973 book Shelter, in particular, provides timeless information, selling over 300,000 copies to this day.

Shelter Cookbook, a new volume edited by architect Leopold Banchini and writer Lukas Feireiss, takes a fresh look at Kahn’s legacy, finding both poetic beauty and historical value in the DIY guides that were often looked down upon by Modernist architects of the time. The editors were fascinated by Kahn’s work, leading them to create an installation at the 2021 Venice Biennale titled There are Walls that Want to Prowl, in which they juxtaposed models and images of buildings from Kahn’s guides with their own work that was inspired by him.

Shelter Cookbook by Leopold Banchini (editor), Lukas Feireiss (editor), Spector Books, 2024, 112 pp., $35
Counterculture visionary Lloyd Kahn published prolifically about organic architecture around the time when other publications like The Whole Earth Catalog (above) were also making their mark.
Kahn’s 1973 book Shelter features studies of structures such as the Val Agnoli tower (above), an all-wood building by Val Agnoli in Stinson Beach, California.

Leading up to the exhibition, Banchini and Feireiss traveled across the globe to meet Kahn and his wife, Lesley, in their self-built half-acre home in Bolinas, California. The book compiles gorgeous photographs by Dylan Perrenoud alongside an insightful and at times hilarious interview with Kahn, an essay that catalogs “Mycological Curiosities,” and an in-depth “Further Reading” section that provides recommendations on self-build books and other important texts on topics such as shelter, survival, community, design, environment, education, spirituality, and psychedelics. Kahn’s advice for younger generations just now diving into his work? “You don’t have to do everything. Self-sufficiency is a direction. You never attain it,” he explains, “I realized that when I tried growing wheat.”

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