When Far from Boring, Tony Gwilliam’s highly idiosyncratic memoir/dossier, first crossed my desk a couple of months ago, I admit that I didn’t know what to make of it. And this was not in the ordinary sense that one doesn’t know what to make of a book. I mean that I couldn’t even be sure that it was a book. The little (3.25″x5″) 528-plus-page hardcover came inside a handcrafted tin box, and when I first opened the lid, even before I examined its passport-styled cover, things flew up and out at me — an airmail envelope with Gwilliam’s name and an Ojai address on it, some old-fashioned photographic slides, a few loose labels and stamps, and, finally, two pristine plastic blister-pack googly eyes. Clearly this was not another box from Knopf or HarperCollins.
But it did, in fact, turn out to be a book, and a very good one at that. In 21 sequentially organized chapters, Gwilliam tells his life story, beginning with his childhood in Britain, his education and early career there as an architect, his collaborations with Buckminster Fuller, and his eventual residence in Padangbai, Bali, Indonesia, where he owns and operates an eco-resort known as the Bloo Lagoon Sustainable/Regenerative Village. Stops in between Britain and Bali include an extended residence in Ojai, as well as travels to Lucca in Tuscany, Nepal, Vancouver, and Santa Monica, where he taught at SCIARC.
Gwilliam belongs to an extraordinary generation of visionary artists/activists/architects who insisted on approaching the challenges of designing shelter with radically open minds. Like his great mentor Bucky Fuller, Gwilliam understood the value of “tensegrity,” a kind of structural strength that’s as much present in nature as it tends to be absent in traditional architecture. He’s designed portable “mantainers” and giant inflatable domes. The Bloo Lagoon Village represents the latest and perhaps most evolved manifestation of his determination to create living spaces that respect and contribute to the ecology and culture of the landscapes they inhabit. For more information, and to procure a copy of this “diminutive leettle bloo book,” visit tonygwilliam.com.