I have always known that at last I would take this road...
February 5, 2008 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Any fool can hire an architect to draw up a plan for a house, but it takes a truly inspired fool — which is to say, an artist — to start building and see where the earth and driftwood and shards of broken pottery take him. [Slideshow.]

In 1979 Michael [Kahn] & Leda [Livant] moved themselves and their paintings from Provincetown MA to rural land in Cornville Arizona. There they began the first mixed media structure which they later called Eliphante. They continued building and sculpting on the 3 acre environment. Another tour. A flickr photo set.
posted by dersins (19 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
(If you hate NYT slideshows-- and who among us doesn't-- some of the images from that one can be seen here.)
posted by dersins at 11:03 AM on February 5, 2008

I want one.
posted by tehloki at 11:11 AM on February 5, 2008

I have long fantasized about my own Hobbit hole. This appears to be it in real life. Amazing.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:15 AM on February 5, 2008

I was struck by how the house itself is the memory. Usually our houses are containers defined by what we put into them. She must feel surrounded by him 24/7.
posted by Xurando at 11:22 AM on February 5, 2008

This really beautiful stuff and I'm in love with it. IWarm, intimate and unique and totally worth doing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:23 AM on February 5, 2008

Whoa! Hippiedudes! This story really is lovely, and very personal. Philip Johnson said once in an interview that everybody should be required to design their own house, where they want to live and how they want to live. And take responsibility for it. That would give them a perspective on what really goes into the trouble and technology and economy of building. And get a sense of lodging and construction that would put you a little more in touch with reality.

Think about it. If everbody in the world were to aspire to this land-resource level of survival, we'd all be in trouble. Ever been to parts of Mozambique with cities over a million and no sewer system or even real latrines? Can 7 billion of us afford to go back to cave-person days? Nostalgic suburban Americans can dream about it, but this is not the aspiration of most of the world's inhabitants, right or wrong. Personally, I don't have anybody to send 40$ a month to my grocery store, either, nor do most of my neighbours.

We belong to a more complex world. Face it, live it, do it right.
posted by biboch at 12:02 PM on February 5, 2008

Cousin of Lloyd Kahn, of Shelter fame. Funny, I stumbled upon Lloyd Kahn's blog last night while looking at house porn.
posted by okbye at 12:07 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I live near this place, though I don't know where it is exactly. Arizona has a number of such places tucked away. A not dissimilar place, but on a much larger scale , though no less decrepit is Arcosanti. Quite near to this place as well.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 12:14 PM on February 5, 2008

The interiors remind me a lot of Salvation Mountain's interiors, all curves and odd colours mixed up. Lots of photos of Leonard Knight's creation on Flickr.
posted by Nelson at 12:37 PM on February 5, 2008

If you want a hobbit hole, this is the place you're looking for. Serious. Furry feet or GTFO.
posted by jquinby at 12:42 PM on February 5, 2008

I thought for sure this post was going to be about these guys.
posted by LionIndex at 12:42 PM on February 5, 2008

The place looks so... so... ARIZONA!!
posted by not_on_display at 12:56 PM on February 5, 2008

It's quite beautiful. But the thing that strikes me about homes like that is how tiring they must be to live in.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:04 PM on February 5, 2008

Really amazing looking.

Am I the only wondering about legal issues? Certainly these buildings aren't to code. Are certain states' rules more lax?
posted by ODiV at 1:21 PM on February 5, 2008

Neat looking. A lot of off-the-grid type houses are designed like this, lots of swooping curves and weird shapes. But every time I see a house like this in a place like AZ, I think "Yeah, let's see you come up to Maine with that act, buddy."

The relationship between climate and shelter is interesting. If the climate allows, you can spend years and years piecing together something like this out of junk that you find. So a window hole is open for a year or two? Big deal. On the other hand, I have to replace a window in one day and one day only, or forget about the wall that it was in. I admit to the inherent snobbiness in my attitude, but I sort of feel like it's not all that impressive to fuck around with shelter design like this in a place where shelter is, by and large, optional.

And before someone digs up examples of rammed-earth tire houses from Saskatchewan (and please do!) I do realize this sort of thing has been done all over. I'm not talking about alternative housing design in general, but this case in particular.
posted by rusty at 2:53 PM on February 5, 2008

Am I the only wondering about legal issues? Certainly these buildings aren't to code. Are certain states' rules more lax?

To a degree, yes, but it's probably just more that single-family residential codes are really lax compared to other types of buildings. Otherwise, code differences regarding structural stuff from where you're at is probably due to differences in wind loads, seismic loads, or snow loads, which are all specified by code.
posted by LionIndex at 5:06 PM on February 5, 2008

With money tight, Mr. Kahn had the habit of stretching a bag of cement — instead of using a ratio of four bags of sand to every one of cement, Mr. Kahn would use 8 or 10.

That sounds like a scene from the Sopranos.
posted by Tube at 6:00 PM on February 5, 2008

Ah wonderful post, dersins - I love eccentric homes by do-it-your-selfers and this one is particularly charming. And jquinby, the one you found is seriously cute!

Here are a few more: Nitt Witt Ridge in Califonia and Anna's Bottle House (midi alert) was apparently created out of bottles & rocks by artists in the '60s and is now a functioning B&B near Saguaro National Park in Arizona.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:51 PM on February 5, 2008

The house is cool and all that, but the love story between those two people is just amazing. She must have been so in love with him.
posted by dejah420 at 8:51 PM on February 6, 2008

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