Born in 1944 in the LA suburb of Torrance, an only child with many creative talents, David Ludwig discovered his creative gifts and began drawing and painting in elementary school. He enjoyed playing music from an early age and began studying the piano at age 8, clarinet at 12, and guitar 17. As an Eagle Scout, he followed his fascination with Native American culture through a branch of scouting called the Order of the Arrow, where he studied Native American dance and ceremony. and later at 17, he became proficient in contemporary social dancing. While a senior in high school, an intuitive art teacher pointed David in the direction of architecture as a career, and after that the four creative centers of architecture, art, music and dance were his primary interests.
After attending junior and state collages, David moved to Berkeley in 1964 to attend Cal, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture 1968, and a Master of Architecture 1971. David married and had three daughters in ‘65 and ‘68, was divorced, remarried and had a fourth daughter in ‘73. He moved his family from Berkeley to El Cerrito in 1975 where he lived for the next 18 years.
Trained by his father as a carpenter during his teens, David worked his way through school designing and building small remodel projects in Berkeley, and after graduating in 1971 he worked as a beginning designer for a few well-known local architectural firms. After several years of design apprenticeship, he opened his own firm named Dovetail Design and Construction in 1976 where, he designed and built over a hundred fifteen residential and small commercial projects in the San Francisco Bay Area.
While developing his design/build business and professional career, David kept his interest in art alive by painting with watercolors and pastels, and by exploring photography. He kept his interest in dance and theater alive by taking ballet classes with his daughters at local dance schools, The Richmond Ballet and Berkeley Ballet Theater (BBT). In 1987, and David was asked if he could help with the annual production of “The Nutcracker” by creating a special 21′ x 38′ stage backdrop for “The Land of Snow” to be hand painted on silk. This was his invitation and introduction to painting large format images on silk, and after modifying and inventing the tools and techniques necessary, he created four other stage backdrops drops for the school. At this point, David realized that he had found a unique and rewarding medium of artistic expression. No one else was painting theater stage-sized images on silk. David went on to become Chairman of the Board for BBT and to dance as Drosselmeier in The Nutcracker for ten years.
During an economic downturn in ’87, David closed his design/build business and went to work for a Polsky Architects in Marin County. There, his architectural interest evolved into designing high-end custom homes, and over the next 17 years, he completed 70 residential and educational projects. He enjoyed working in a variety of styles, but preferred creating arts-and-crafts and lodge-style homes. His design skills blossomed from a unique aptitude for space planning, and he used his artistic skills to produce finely crafted hand drawings of his designs at a time when most architects were beginning the transition to CAD.
David evaluated his personal and creative goals in 1994, and reduced his commitment to practicing architecture to ¾ time. He opened a small silk art business and used his additional free time to develop his art; doing photography, creating silk theater backdrops, special silk fabrics for costumes, Middle Eastern dance veils, shawls, and fine art watercolor and pastel drawings. During the same time, his dance interest evolved through studying jazz dance with David Jones at College of Marin, to studying folk dance with the Sacred Circle Dancers in Berkeley, to studying and performing Middle Eastern dance. He began taking class with two established local teachers: Carolina Nericco of FatChanceBellyDance in San Francisco, and Sherry Briar of Inner Rhythm Studios. In Mill Valley. He became involved in the local Middle Eastern cultural community and from 1996 to 2002 David studied and danced with 12 women as a member of Middle Eastern dance troupe Ala Nar, and he created silk backdrops for several Middle Eastern dance festivals. Following this Middle-Eastern theme, he studied and performed on the Egyptian bamboo flute called the ney as well as the soprano saxophone.
In 2003 David met international music promoter Miles Copland at a dance festival and was commissioned to produce his first digitally printed theater backdrops for an international dance troupe, The Bellydance Superstars. David’s digital drops began touring the world with this group and have been presented in many famous venues such as the Follies Bergere in Paris. In 2003 and 2004, David also produced silk and digital drops for use in off-Broadway productions in NYC. He is currently renting his drops over the internet and enjoys sending them off for weekend use at Middle Eastern dance performances, church events and weddings across the US.
In 2005, David left Polsky Architects and opened a solo architecture practice in San Anselmo, CA., where he continued creating both residential remodel and new home projects. His design philosophy recalled the spatial and functional relationships of lodge home living and was featured in a Marin Magazine (a local housing magazine) in April of 06. His favorite architecture styles are lodge, arts and crafts, Mediterranean and a contemporary style called New Primitive.
After seeing Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” and second inspirational movie/exhibit called “Ashes and Snow”, David made a personal commitment to Ghandi’s direction “We must BE the change we seek in the world”. He embraced the “not-so-big” design ideas of author Sarah Suzanka, as an opportunity to show his colleagues and clients how a personal commitment for helping preserve the environment could look. He moved out of his rented house in Mill Valley and into a new solar-powered Airstream Trailer, parked in a small trailer court in Greenbrae. He set up a half-time mobile office in the trailer and transitioned to a semi-nomadic lifestyle designing homes while in Marin or on the road, sharing his story, taking photos, playing music and dancing.
In 2008, David moved out of the trailer park and rented a house in San Anselmo, a block from his office. This unique property featured an original Tudor style1920’s home, complete with gothic detailing, gargoyles in the living room, space for the Airstream opposite an Italian fountain in the front yard, and space for a substantial organic garden in the back yard. He lived and worked in San Anselmo until the economic recession claimed 70% of his ongoing clients and income. He then returned to the trailer park in Larkspur and rented an art studio at the Industrial Center Building (ICB) in Sausalito where he set up spaces for storage, art display and architecture. This studio office along with his Airstream home became David’s base of operations for the next 9 years.
David was loving his unique lifestyle, living in the Airstream and traveling bi-weekly to local outdoor recreational areas. Without really knowing, he had begun living a “tiny” lifestyle before the arrival of the now acknowledged trend called “Tiny House Living”. What David was seeking (a sensitive reduction in environmental impact along with an affordable reduction in monthly housing expenses) was catching on with more and more lower and middle income folks as a realistic option for dealing with an emerging affordable housing crisis.
The recession in 2008-12 had all but stopped the construction of new affordable housing units and given the incessant demand, it is unlikely that the market can find balance in the foreseeable future. It now seems evident that the old models of developer-based for-profit affordable housing cannot be created at any rate close to the demand. One possible solution for this dilemma, is the creation a completely new housing model that engages the occupants to share in the economic cost and rewards related to housing. This new model is called the Tiny House Lifestyle.
Living tiny has the potential to free the owner-occupants of these new affordable living environments from the traditional high cost/low quality living options. The option of shedding the structure of a mortgage evolved into shedding the structure of the full-time job. The limited space in the Tiny House encouraged breaking with the unrewarding cultural focus on the collection of things with the recognition that this a goal was failing to provide “meaning” for living. Young, experimental freedom-seekers created a tide of acknowledgement that supported individual rights, freedom and autonomy while addressing the desperate need to reduce impact on the environment and re-distribute wealth across the full spectrum of lifestyle options.
David continued his pattern of tiny living until 2018, when the building pressures of high cost rent and increasing grid-lock traffic encouraged him to begin looking for a housing alternative outside of the central bay area. He found some rural property in Sonoma County with a large house, expansive views and parking for the Airstream. He closed his art studio, packed up his belongings and moved to Sonoma in Spring of 2018. He is now spending a portion of each week living and working in a more conventional house, while spending weekends in the Airstream. Instead of taking the trailer to local recreation areas, he realized that his own property provided the best accommodations for his Tiny Lifestyle. He now travels monthly to nearby camping places on the coast, in the High Sierra and in Oregon.
David’s plans for the immediate future include continuing to practice architecture, continuing to contribute his pro bono offering to the Tiny House community through his Facebook page called Tiny House Solutions, and continuing to travel in his Airstream. This non-traditional mix of lifestyle choices feels as if it perfectly reflects his own internal non-traditional mix of ideas, hobbies and offering to is community.