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A High-Tech DIY Neighborhood in the Hills of Central California

The directing team behind music videos for Björk and Grizzly Bear is building a town and farm from the ground up in the hills of central California.

If you've seen the video for Björk's song "Wanderlust," or the one for Grizzly Bear's "Knife," you're familiar with the work of Encyclopedia Pictura, a directing team composed of native Californians Isaiah Saxon, Sean Hellfritsch, and Daren Rabinovitch.


Their video work takes a page from the maker movement. Like most modern directors, they use computer graphics, but they also build extensive sets and props, by hand and from scratch. Now the collective is taking the DIY ethos a step further by building its own town from the ground up in the hills of coastal California, centered around the values of "DIY skills, long term thinking, experiential education, and friendship."

Trout Gulch, near Aptos, has been in the works for two years. So far it has "a patchwork of tiny houses, tree houses, thatch huts, bath houses, tool shops, outdoor kitchens, domes, swings, fruit tree orchards, goat paddocks, vegetable gardens, slides, and terraces." The community has a population of 18 and will eventually be home to the Trout Gulch Farm, a three-acre, organic CSA. But these people aren't Luddites; at the same time, they're exploring the frontiers of new technology like augmented reality.

You can read about Trout Gulch and see an extensive gallery of pictures from the construction process on their website. It looks sort of like a 1960s commune built by Disney Imagineers. It might not be a model for everyone—this would be much harder to pull off in Maine, and besides, some people like cities—but you have to give them credit for building the world they want to see.

CORRECTION: Isaiah Saxon sent us a nice email, but wanted to clarify that Trout Gulch is not, in his mind, a commune. "We do not income-share, we do not share a house, we do not pool everything and divide it up, we don't have constant meetings—there are several families living here, much like any neighborhood." This piece has been edited to correct that error, and to specify that Trout Gulch is in central California.

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