The Sea Ranch is a planned unincorporated community located in Sonoma County, California, about one
hundred miles north of San Francisco or 120 miles from Sacramento. The U.S. Census Bureau lists 751 residents
at The Sea Ranch in 2000. The Sea Ranch Association conducted a member
survey in 1996, and 297 residents responded that they live at The Sea Ranch
full time. It is a world-renowned community, noted for its distinctive
architecture, which consists of many simple, weathered-wood houses. Most
homes do not have lawns or fences. Rather than structures dominating the
landscape, The Sea Ranch concept of design and planning attempts to merge
buildings into the landscape, creating a harmonious coexistance of man-made
structures and nature.
Al Boeke, an architect and planner, found the
beautiful coastline and forests endearing, and envisioned a community that
would preserve the environment's natural beauty. Oceanic California Inc., a division of Castle and
Cooke Inc., purchased the land, and assembled a team of
established architects, landscape architects, and planners to begin the
project. Principle designers included American architects Charles Willard Moore, Joseph
Esherick, and landscape architect Lawrence
Halprin. Condominium One (completed in 1965) was awarded the American Institute of Architects
25 Year Award in 1991, and was listed on The National Register of Historic
Places in 2005. The architecture is postmodern
vernacular in the Bay Area Tradition, but is commonly referred
to as "Sea Ranch" style. Local building codes include various
design guidelines such as exteriors of unpainted wood, a lack of overhanging
eaves, and baffles on exterior lighting to ensure that the architecture
doesn't detract from the natural beauty of the area. All public landscaping
at Sea Ranch must be native plants, which gives residents and visitors a
sense of being in a nature preserve rather than a formally landscaped
development. In an effort to keep grass cut low to the ground, which poses a
serious fire threat during the summer months, The Sea Ranch uses a herd of
sheep throughout the community. This practical element in planning is a
reminder of The Sea Ranch's origins as a sheep ranch.
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