Thu. 10.01.09

Harry Wakefield
The Sea Ranch
Books & Magazines: Jun 17, 2004

ranch-book-cover-sm.gifThe Sea Ranch is possibly the most influential Western development of the 1960s, and one of the most architecturally significant planned communities ever constructed in California. Located just south of Gualala, California, about 100 miles north of San Francisco just off Coast Highway 1, The Sea Ranch is situated on several thousand acres of meadows and wooded glens, and many of the home sites have panoramic and uninterrupted views of the crashing waves and small beaches and tidepools that the Mendocino coast is known for. Landscape designer Lawrence Halprin's original master plan for the community focused on guidelines that would minimize physical and visual impact on the landscape, giving each homeowner wide unblocked views and plenty of open space around their homes.

LINK: The Sea Ranch
LINK: The Sea Ranch: Diary of an Idea
LINK: William Turnbull, Jr.: Buildings in the Landscape

Some of the greatest architects of the latter 20th century have designed and built homes here; Charles Moore, Joseph Esherick, William Turnbull, Obie Bowman, Donlyn Lyndon, Dmitri Vedensky and many others have been recognized worldwide for the careful environmental planning of their Sea Ranch projects. Their "Sea Ranch Style," as it has come to be known, is today the most well-known style of modern Northern California housing.
The land itself is breathtaking: rolling meadows sandwiched between rocky cliffs on one side and dense forest to the east; myriad hidden beaches and walking and equestrian paths along the bluffs and meandering through the woods. There is a simple clubhouse with tennis courts, pools and saunas; a golf course and shop; a wonderful restaurant overlooking the ocean and what I think is the prettiest chapel on the entire coast.

These two photographs were taken by Charles C. Benton of the UC Berkeley Department of Architecture, using a kite-mounted camera.

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Only a small portion of homeowners live in the area full-time; the majority use their Sea Ranch homes as vacation houses. Several dozen properties are available for short and longer-term rentals from a variety of local companies.
Above: The Sea Ranch Condominiums, designed by Charles Moore and MLTW in 1964. Moore, Allen and Lyndon wrote in The Place of Houses that "At the Sea Ranch, houses merge into the forest with great success; in the meadows, however, houses need to set up partnerships with the land forms and with each other which turned out to be very difficult to achieve."
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Above left: The home of architect Dmitri Vedensky's, for which he won the Architectural Award for Excellence in Design. Vedensky chaired Sea Ranch's design review committee from 1988 until his death in 1997.

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