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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Book Review: A Practical Guide to Squatting


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Author: Larraine Henning

“A Practical Guide to Squatting” is an illustrated how-to manual that takes a playful and tactical approach to an alternative lifestyle. Author Larraine Henning is a former architect turned independent illustrator, designer and sometimes squatter. She reframes squatting, scavenging and gleaning as activities not just for the downtrodden but for ‘everyday folk’.

pizza-box_600Her illustrated how-to guide of subversive habitation covers the fascinating basics of identifying a potential squatting site, making a wood stove out of an oil drum and building a solar oven out of a pizza box. For seasoned squatters there is also the advanced craft of building a swimming pool out of an abandoned building foundation.

While the practice of squatting is controversial, the author’s primary agenda is to reveal a sub-culture of people who engage in these activities in a positive and meaningful way. Many people practice squatting and gleaning not because they have to but because they value what the other half throws away and abandons.

Originally from Winnipeg Manitoba, Henning became interested in squatting in 2010 at the University of British Columbia, where she was completing her Masters of Architecture. What began as a research project on informal and ad-hoc architecture became a manual for a do-it-yourself, counter-cultural lifestyle.

The book may appear as merely a tongue and cheek jab at property rights and resource scarcity, however there is more to it than that.

More than 1/3 of the world’s population live in homes they built themselves. Architecture is not only practiced by educated professionals, but also by the disenfranchised, the layman, the individual and the collective. Beneath its cheeky imagery, the book is trying to show the world that squatting, gleaning, canning, binning, scavenging and the like is not paltry behaviour, but often provides a meaningful contribution to a world most of us know little about.

In the spirit of a do-it-yourself revolution “A Practical Guide to Squatting” is now available for purchase on indiegogo at

Henning now wanders Australia living in fields, farms, houses and tents. Like many young architects she has defected from the profession to take a chance on other endeavours. Whether she is working as an artist, fruit picker or cattle drover, Henning seeks to liberate herself from the 9-5 world and align her lifestyle more closely with the ethos of her book.



You can find out more about the Larraine Henning and her work go to