Making a Place in the Country

The Outlaw Builders’ Studio


In the Fall Semester of 1971, Van der Ryn and Campe offered a studio course that brought students to a wooded site in northern Marin County for three consecutive days every week. The design/build experiment involved the construction of a commune premised upon ecological integrity. According to one student's journal, the studio provided an opportunity to “build a house in which my physical self could exist and a consciousness in which my spiritual self could exist.”

The “living-learning experience” began with a crash course in foraging for mushrooms, collecting mussels at a nearby beach, and scavenging redwood from disused Petaluma chicken coops. With the recycled building material, students built sleeping platforms and tree houses, a kitchen, a collective meeting and drafting studio, and a shower and composting toilet. Outlaw Building News, their underground press publication, sold almost as fast as it could be printed, providing cash for new “outlaw building” ventures.