Located on a ten-mile stretch of the California coast, about 100 miles north of San Francisco, this former sheep ranch was purchased in 1963 by developer Oceanic Properties. Lawrence Halprin was hired to create a master plan for a residential community. He integrated emerging environmental principals into his plan, attempting minimal intrusion into the native environment. Houses were placed within the natural framework of the coastal hills, clustered between hedgerows to provide both wind protection and ocean views. Community facilities were incorporated into the site plan, such as a recreation center and a post office. Halprin drew inspiration from his early years on a kibbutz in conceptualizing the communal clusters. Architects Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker and Joseph Esherick & Associates designed many of the early residences.
Halprin developed guidelines and recommendations for growth within the Master Plan for The Sea Ranch that are still adhered to today. The Sea Ranch Association, a homeowners association, maintains a website with detailed information on the original concept behind The Sea Ranch and the history of the development of the site. The Association includes active Landscape and Archives Committees, which are continually monitoring the implementation of the original concept with regards to new development, and improving and elevating the recognition for Halprin’s contributions within the community. The Association is currently initiating a discussion focused on the identification and future management of The Sea Ranch’s irreplaceable historical and cultural resources.
Furthermore, many of the original designers involved in the creation of The Sea Ranch own homes within the development, including the Halprins, Donlyn Lyndon (of Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker), and Charles Moore (also of Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker; the Charles Moore Foundation took over ownership of his condo following his death in 1993), among others. This has resulted in the original designers’ on-going involvement with the future development of the property. For example, Halprin was on the design team that expanded the Sea Ranch Lodge (hotel and restaurant) in 1998, and Lyndon currently sits on the Association’s Landscape Committee. These voices have inadvertently served as stewards of their own legacy. While the phases of expansion and development at The Sea Ranch have taken on different stylistic trends over the years, the original intention for an ecologically sensitive and progressive community has remained a constant.
In addition to Zara Muren’s 1994 documentary, “Dream of The Sea Ranch,” numerous books and publications have detailed Halprin’s involvement with The Sea Ranch, many of which are included on the Resources page of this website. Public workshops led by both Lawrence and Anna Halprin took place on-site through the 1990s. The only reason The Sea Ranch was not awarded the highest mark under Visibility is because the National Register of Historic Places nominations written about the property only include the 1880s era Knipp and Stengel Ranch, which was designated in 1987, and Condominium 1, which was designated in 2005. Moving forward, the pioneering efforts in site planning and landscape architecture are worthy of similar recognition.
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Saxon Holt, ASMP ASPP
Holt worked as a commercial photographer until he discovered a market for garden photography. His current work focuses on the relationship between gardens and the land, seeking a sustainable aesthetic that enhances both gardener and the earth. His recent books, The American Meadow Garden with John Greenlee, and Hardy Succulents with Gwen Kelaidis, allowed him to explore gardens that have an authentic connection to place. He licenses his photography at PhotoBotanic.com.