Posts tagged bernard rudofsky
The Dome Builder's Handbook

On New Year's, a book fell into my lap via some friends that felt like a good omen going into promising year: The Dome Builder's Handbook, by John Prenis. It sits right in a narrow vein of 60s and 70s-era design writing that I've written about here many times before, dense with hand-drawn illustrations, DIY promises, and anti-establishment ethos.  It may, in fact, be a peak example of the type, second only to the Whole Earth Catalog in its complete adherence to the conventions of the form. 

I haven't been able to find much information about John Prenis or the circumstances of its publication, which only adds to the mystery. This was Prenis' first book; he wrote seven more, with the last coming out in 1990.  The Dome Builder's Handbook came out in 1973 as one of the first titles for Running Press. The publishing house still exists, with the name surviving a 2002 merger with Perseus.  All of Prenis' subsequent books were also published by RP, but their current catalog doesn't list any of his work. In general, their selection seems to have pivoted away from craft and DIY titles and into children's and cookbooks. 

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The Prodigious Builders

When I was a kid, I was a prodigious fort builder. It started indoors, as it always does, with pillows and couch cushions. Once a little older, I headed into the badlands of the backyard. I shot passages through clusters of boxwoods by clearing out undergrowth and strategically snapping branches. I dug trenches with a shovel I could barely handle and roofed them with sticks, crawling into the little hollows and listening to the traffic eroding down the road. Eventually, with much help from my father, I put up a treehouse that survived a decade in a half-rotten mulberry, complete with rope ladder and rickety rail. 

Even as a teenager, I found occasion for constructing a temporary refuge. As a Boy Scout, for my Wilderness Survival badge, I built a lean-to and spent a miserable, sweaty night inside, warding off the rain wrapped in a poncho. The next day, my left eye was swelled shut with poison ivy contracted while I foraged for materials. I put all of these together before I had any formal training in architecture or building. The term of art for this practice is "vernacular" --  of or pertaining to the common style of a time or place, especially the common building style of a time or place.

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