We arrive, dizzy from the hairpin drive up Shoreline Highway and stumble into a dilapidated parking lot, a jumbled palimpsest of years of slapdash decisions: accessible ramps tacked on here, someone’s favorite rhododendron planted there. But pretty quick, the blast of ultra-ionized Pacific air pulls us back into the present, and we can see for miles—and the Sea Ranch is still banging out its cacophonous Ecoscore.
We’re on hallowed ground. Concepts we learned about in the dark, stuffy lecture rooms are writ large from the precipitous cliffs to the towering ridgeline. People, for once, trying not to ruin the place they love in the process of loving it. It’s a story of good boundaries, mutual respect and infinite appreciation. It has its problems, sure. But don’t we all? We still believe it to be worthy of understanding and emulation.
There’s no way we’re going to actually fill the shoes of those before us, but honestly, we don’t want their shoes anyways; it’s a different world now, so we just keep our dirty Birkenstocks on and start the project.
Designing on a historic site governed by an HOA with stringent policies that ensure design continuity and ecological sensitivity is challenging, and that’s the point. As we settle into our role, trusting and relaxing into these constraints bears us forward on a gentle, occasionally eddying tide. We tune into the subtle vernacular language of the place and mine these spare phrases for each design problem’s bon mot. We begin to learn the art of doing as little as possible.
Because the real reason that The Sea Ranch exists and is noteworthy is not the pitched roofs that mimic the windswept cypress. It is not the muted material palette, the supergraphics, the clever handrail detail, or the status conferred by buying in. It is that all this exists as a non-dominant aspect of the magnificently and unapologetically wild landscape. Where a grey fox will dart across your path and disappear between two houses, where Salal Creek flows unobstructed to the ocean, where the meadows are an ever-changing and infinitely complex starburst of blooms. It’s truly and refreshingly not about us.
We did very little on this project, but that’s what we’re maybe most proud of. This is a learning curve we’re leaning into and an ethic we’re taking with us, in work and in life. We aim to go humbly and quietly forth and to make no big plans.
Sea Ranch Lodge
Location: Sea Ranch, California.
Landscape Architecture: Terremotto
Story Wiggins (lead), Alain Peauroi, David Godshall (concept)
Interiors: Charles de Lisle
General Contracting: Pioneer
Landscape Construction: Floriferous Landscaping
Photos by Caitlin Atkinson and Lauren Moore