Shelter Publications has been operating out of Leslie & Lloyd Kahn’s garden studio in Bolinas, California for the past 40 years. They do all aspects of book production in-house and turn out about a book a year on a range of subjects that interest them—notably on homes and building, and also on fitness and stretching.
Lloyd was born in 1935 and got his college degree at Stanford. After finishing a tour of duty with the Air Force in Germany, where he ran the USAF newspaper for two years, Lloyd returned home to California in 1960. It was soon readily apparent that his plan to push papers behind a desk as an insurance broker was not to be, and Lloyd began work as a carpenter, learning the skills of the trade on the job.
In 1968, Lloyd coordinated with Pacific High School, an alternative school in the Santa Cruz mountains, to build 17 geodesic domes inspired by Buckminster Fuller. Experimenting with plywood, aluminum, sprayed foam, vinyl, and a significant amount of caulk, he soon established a reputation for himself as the the master of dome building. He began working as the Shelter editor for Steward Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog and in 1971, published his first book, Domebook One, followed the next year with Domebook 2.
Around that same time, Lloyd purchased a half-acre lot in Bolinas, where he built himself a shake-covered geodesic dome that was later featured in Life magazine. After living in his dome for a year, Kahn decided domes didn’t work well: they were complicated to build, demanded too many rarefied materials, required too frequent repairs. He pulled Domebook from the press, disassembled and sold his dome, and set out on an odyssey to discover various alternative ways to build. The result of his travels was the seminal book Shelter, published in 1973.
That search for old, new, and unusual ways of building has been a constant interest of Lloyd’s ever since. He continues to travel, research, experiment, stretch, skateboard (taken up at age 65), and publish about it all.