It was last fall, and I’d just accepted a new job in San Francisco. I needed a place to stay, but I hadn’t decided where I wanted to live in the city. I just needed a temporary place to crash, ideally staying with a friend in the city till I found a more permanent home. A friend connected me with one of the residents of a place called Langton Labs.
Langton Labs defies easy categorization. (The Wall Street Journal article about it, and the subculture, isn’t bad.) I’ve seen it described as “an ongoing experiment in creating and living based out of a former sign factory South of Market in San Francisco.” Basically, it’s a warehouse that a creative, interesting group of people live in together. It’s a ‘coliving’ space: A kind of DIY intentional community. More than just a place to rent, it’s a place to interact and create and do new things. As a shared space for artistic or even professional endeavors, it redefines home in a very appealing way. It’s like a small tribe in a big box.
It’s a cool place. Most if not all the inhabitants are burners and some are involved in the Hexayurt Project. Langton manifests at Black Rock City as Phage. There are private rooms for permanent residences as well as extensive shared spaces. There’s a common kitchen and people tended to share meals together.
While I was there, guests would often come for brief stays, usually a few days. No one stayed for a whole month as I did, but I was welcome to stay that long. I wanted enough time to learn about San Francisco neighborhoods and a permanent place to live, a place flexible enough that I come and go as I liked and could move out with little warning. Langton was great for that.
It’s also pretty disorderly and messy. That’s part of the charm. There were a bunch of different projects going on, including the installation of a dance floor. I learned not to go barefoot… there tended to be lots of sharp broken things, heavy metal objects or tools lying around.
I lived out of my duffel bag. A bed was really all I needed then. It’s a fun place but definitely not private. I slept in the Sliding Door Room–a room with 4 bunk beds, no windows and one giant wall-sized door on tracks. The Door had been removed while the dance floor was under construction. (Yup–the dance floor is immediately adjacent to the guest sleeping area.)
It’s often loud at Langton, and at unpredictable times. There’s a lot of music and conversation at any time, day or night. There were frequent opportunities to meet, hang out and get to know new people. It’s very social, and interesting conversations were easy to get into. Since I had just started a new job, I had to keep regular hours so I learned to wear earplugs when I slept.
There’s another warehouse across the street that’s part of the same community, but I didn’t spend that much time there. In fact the intensity of the new job kept me from getting as involved in Langton as I would have liked to in the short time I had there. But I made a few friends there (including Abalone the cat) and still keep in touch. It was the best introduction to San Francisco I could have hoped for.