Sea Ranch's Changing Architectural Vision

The progressive Northern California project is adapting to the times.

1 minute read

June 17, 2019, 10:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink


Sea Ranch California

josh s jackson / Flickr

Diana Ketcham writes about the past and present of the Sea Ranch, a development on a remote stretch of Northern California coastline that started in 1964. "For an exhilarating historical moment the energies of postwar suburban development, an emerging ecology movement and Modernist architecture found a common purpose: transforming a 5,200 acre sheep ranch here into a progressive residential community, built in a way that was not only in tune with nature, but driven by nature."

In the mid-1960s, the Sea Ranch’s architectural influence was global, notes Ketcham. "And in the following decade, its particular combination of the shed roof, the window seats and ladders, the ingenious overhead spaces for outlooks and skylights as well as sleeping, would be thoroughly absorbed by the mainstream."

More recently, however, a changing world has meant aspects of the Sea Ranch have had to shift as well. Increased density, more year-round residents able to live and work in the community, and environmental concerns, such as the threat of wildfires, mean architects and planners are adapting to the area’s needs.

Ketcham traveled to the Sea Ranch and describes in more detail the features of a number of new projects as well as the construction challenges, including the use of fire-resistant building materials, removal of hazardous trees, and design updates that retain the character and architectural spirit of the original buildings. 

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