Sea Ranch at 50! Some Personal Impressions

Sea Ranch is 50!

A couple surprising impressions from my weekend stay in Charles Moore’s own condo in the original multi-unit structure: the amazing quiet and privacy in adjacent units; the perfect balance between sheltering one-skin sheds and glass window benches –the wind really blows here! The complex was just a few years old. Those 2 overnights were a privilege I will never forget. 

Sea Ranch is not about style. It’s about a lot more than shingles all over. It’s a lot better and more inspiring than most domestic architecture, anywhere. Doubtless, many old people no long climb ladders to free-standing sleeping lofts in individual barn-like units, but it’s certainly an exciting way to live while one can. Sea Ranch is entirely “what you see is what you get” architecture. America is so far from that now, the difference becomes more striking over time. From a distance, the entire complex seems to disappear into the terrain, a cross between Medieval village and shingle-clad Russian fortress or church (There were some, scattered up and down the West Coast).

Sea Ranch is memorable, a wonderful collaboration of multi-disciplinary designers. Of course the multi-class, even socialist dimension, has all but disappeared, while community-governed design still rules. Let’s not point fingers at anyone for that (while more than a handful of private property fetishists may celebrate). it’s the “conservative” nature of our social order in play –money talks! Thorston Veblen’s lively analysis of conspicuous consumption comes to mind. “Conservative”, as in “I’ve got mine” insensitivity, the antithesis to Sea Ranch’s conservationist legacy.

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