Studio Visit subject Moore Ruble Yudell is the legacy firm of architectural master Charles Moore, who founded the company more than thirty years ago with John Ruble and Buzz Yudell. Many of Moore's architectural priorities are encapsulated in a unique community of oceanside homes he helped design, Sea Ranch, which just celebrated its fifty year anniversary. Celebrations of Sea Ranch's birthday wind down over Memorial Day with a concert by the Kronos Quartet. Last fall AN contributor Kenneth Caldwell attended The Once and Future Sea Ranch, a one-day symposium on the community's history and future. Below are his notes. When you hit middle age, it’s time for another checkup, and if you are a group of affluent nature-loving Northern Californian neighbors, perhaps a check-in. Residents of Sea Ranch, a second home community stretched out along 10 miles of the Sonoma coast north of San Francisco, have been holding a number of events to celebrate its 50th birthday. On October 18, there was a day-long symposium to look at how history might influence the future. The goal of this confab was to generate new ideas about the next 50 years of Sea Ranch’s existence. Led by former UC Berkeley Art Museum curator Jacquelynn Baas and original Sea Ranch architect and retired UC Berkeley professor Donlyn Lyndon, the presentations ranged over several topics but eventually seemed to coalesce around a few key ones. It’s Really About the Landscape Lyndon, who has served on the Sea Ranch design committee, now chairs the landscape committee, and has designed several homes since the community’s founding. What he understands better than most is that what matters at Sea Ranch is not so much the widely published architecture, but the landscape. The point of the intense design review process was to try and prevent design from interfering too much with the place. This has been a central attraction and source of conflict for 50 years. Lyndon presented an overview of the community and its development. One of Lyndon’s main points is that much of the mature landscape that you experience there was planted when Sea Ranch was first developed. Now it has to be managed prudently to cut down on invasive species, protect views, and most importantly, prevent fires. This reinforces a basic idea: other than the ocean, man made Sea Ranch. Lyndon then turned the floor over to design professionals who are not part of the Sea Ranch scene. As a central steward of this now historic locale, he knew that he needed new voices to generate new ideas. Nature Shaped by and for Humans The presentations revealed a core conflict, which goes back to the Sea Ranch’s semi-utopian beginnings. The emerging values of ecology and living in harmony with nature that took root in the early 1960s are not in harmony with the free market. Both Lyndon and UC Berkeley landscape architecture professor Linda Jewell explained the thinking of landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, who brought a romantic notion about a kibbutz-like community where everybody would share the common meadows and build modest cabins up against the beautiful hedgerows. The phrase was “live lightly on the land.” This dreamy if affluent hippiedom was best captured in Architectural Record editor Cathleen McGuigan’s presentation on how the East Coast viewed the development. She featured several rarely seen images of dancer Anna Halprin, wife of the visionary, leading diaphanous dances at the shore. While Lawrence Halprin and his team of scientists went to great lengths to study the ecology and create a self-effacing community, it was still a development idea that would tame nature for man’s pleasure. The environmental movement caught on and, as Lyndon describes in his recently revised book on the topic, eventually threatened the existence of the community. The voters also got ecology fever and passed the Coastal Initiative in 1972, which provided public access to the state’s beaches. For several years, multiple government agencies were entangled in litigation with Sea Ranch over beach access for members of the public who might want to dance there as well. Sea Ranch wasn’t so communal after all. When the court cases were settled, the original developers, part of Hawaii giant Castle & Cooke, wanted out. The result was that the northern part of the ranch was not developed according to Halprin’s original site-sensitive vision. Some folks say that there are essentially two Sea Ranches: the tasteful, quiet southern part and the suburban golf-playing northern sector. In his presentation and comments, California College of the Arts professor of visual studies Mitchell Schwarzer pointed out that the unbuilt environment at Sea Ranch that we so cherish is an illusion that depended on global and technological advances and was created by excellent design. It didn’t just grow there. He was able to contextualize the place as a resort community that focused on contemplation more than any specific activity. We Are Not Getting Any Younger There were other miscalculations besides the popularity of the early environmental movement. The drive from the Bay Area lengthened over the many years since Sea Ranch's inception, with increased development through Marin County and Santa Rosa. Often the journey takes three long hours filled with curves, and short weekends up the coast are not really viable. There is no way to get there but to drive—or fly, if you have your own small plane. And no way to get around once you do get there except by car. The demographic is tilting Sea Ranch towards becoming a retirement village without the usual retirement amenities. Most of the full-time residents are over 60 years old. By 2020, it is estimated that the number will be 80 percent. The few hundred gathered for the event only supported those numbers. This presents a challenge in terms of social and medical needs. How does an aging community renew itself? As one resident pointed out during the Q+A, “Pray for a heart attack and that you drop dead.” Lack of Public Gathering Spaces Although there are three recreational complexes and a golf course, there is no informal gathering place in Sea Ranch, no town square. There is a small bakery tucked away on the hill that serves as a de facto hub, but there’s nothing that was planned. If the lodge expands, as has been rumored for several years, that might be an opportunity for creating some kind of intentional hangout space with opportunities for a few retail services. However, given that there is an empty retail building up on the ridge near the airport, is there enough demand to accommodate additional commerce? Schwarzer’s presentation went a long way to explain this lack of a hangout place. For the most part people go there to be alone or in small groups. What is the Nature of Preserving This Nature? As the slides showed, the natural environment is vastly different from what it was 50 years ago. Lyndon mentioned that the hedgerows, which separated different sheep fields, have matured and block more wind, as do the new plantings. As former UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design dean Harrison Fraker (and others) pointed out, Sea Ranch isn’t a sustainable community. Although Halprin’s original vision called for greater density, it is, like so much of California, essentially a single-family car-oriented cul-de-sac community. Several people also talked about the lack of a coherent bike trail system. There were lots of suggestions about landmarking the place, creating a cultural center, and densifying the remaining undeveloped plots. Perhaps the most inventive idea came LA Times architecture critic Chris Hawthorne, who suggested reviving the Case Study House program at Sea Ranch. But it’s pretty clear from the response that the homeowners don’t want significant change. The most reasonable suggestion presented was for studying in depth the demographics (which the census does only once a decade) and studying in depth the plant and animal life, much as Halprin tried to do when he first came to the site in the early 1960s. Noted Southwest architect Will Bruder offered up lots of ideas including one concrete suggestion that seemed to have some resonance: create a summer institute for students. Although Halprin and Esherick were established professionals in the early 1960s, it was the young bucks at Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker (MLTW) that gave the place that odd twist of self-effacing drama at their condo complex, so the idea seems appropriate. The empty retail building near the airport, designed by William Turnbull, could serve as the base for such an annual gathering of the next generation of talent. In an offhand comment, Lyndon said that original developer Al Boeke knew of Ed Barnes’s famous Haystack School in Maine and that its architectural forms and materials were not unknown to the early designers. Maybe a kind of Haystack that focused on the ecology of the Northern Sonoma/Mendocino coast would work here? Or planned sustainable communities, or even the creation of a more sustainable community at Sea Ranch? It seems unlikely that a group of entitled design students would be interested in doing research for the benefit of a group of well-to-do nature and design enthusiasts. But if the mandate were slightly larger, such as how to evolve the original place-making and environmental ideals of Halprin, Esherick, and MLTW, that might work. There are challenges for the area beyond creating gathering places, meeting seniors’ needs, and overseeing the ever-changing natural environment. They include affordable housing, adjacent timberlands, and strengthening Sea Ranch’s relationship to the small town just across the county line that provides most of the services and retail operations. There is a room for change here, but even with the input of leading thinkers, it won’t be dramatic. But as with the original place itself, a dash of youthful genius could move it forward for the next 50 years.
Posts tagged with "Houses":
If there was ever a perfect curatorial pairing, Alain de Botton made it when he selected artist Grayson Perry to work with English architects Fashion Architecture Taste (FAT). Architecturally speaking, their so-called House for Essex is a “built story”—a shrine to an Essex woman named Julie who led a life as a rock chick and later a social worker, along the way marrying twice and finding happiness before being tragically killed by a curry delivery moped. https://youtu.be/qQ1hbD28KDY The dynamic duo of Perry and FAT's Charles Holland collaborated for almost four years on the artwork and its integration into building form. Perry wrote a long poem about Julie and her life, and how her second husband, Rob, promised to build a Taj Mahal for her if she were to die before him. This is that shrine to her life. Perry had the dream of making a secular shrine, and he first started by sketching his visions of the precious, small temple-like house. “My first ideas looked a bit Hobbity, or like something from Game of Thrones: ramshackle with lots of turrets.” FAT helped make his design, well, less "Hobbity," and incorporate the narrative imagery of Julie’s life and death into the building. They decided on green and white tiles, hand crafted for the building, each of which has an iconographic reference to Julie’s life. While practically every surface is adorned with some of FAT’s most intense detailing, there is a subtle touch that allows the more ordinary features to shine through as a spatial enactment of the narrative. Arched clerestory windows are carved out of a richly painted ceiling; their curved voids contrast, Aalto-like, with the surface of the ceiling. Mustard- and ketchup-colored built-in furnishings are detailed with a level of precision that only FAT could make work without going way over the top. The proportions of the telescoping volumes make the outside like a Russian nesting doll, but inside, the interiors are intensely proportioned to keep up with the visual narrative. The cozy, cathedral-like main space soars above, giving way to a chandelier made from the moped that killed Julie. The bedroom features a 15-foot high tapestry by Perry that looks over visitors, and, depending on one’s own reading, gives approval, disapproval, a cheeky glance, jealous yearning, comforting presence, or complete indifference. Every aspect of the home is meant to have multiple layers meaning, like all of FAT’s projects. This one just takes the notion a step further than other projects. The house is the sixth installation of de Botton’s Living Architecture program, “a social enterprise…dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of world-class architecture. It has produced outstanding houses such as MVRDV’s Balancing Barn and the Room for London, a boat by David Kohn and artist Fiona Banner, with Artangel that sits on top of Queen Elizabeth Hall and gives stunning views of central London. The building is the last project for FAT, which disbanded in 2013. The House for Essex has had wide-ranging coverage in the UK, including an hour-long special on Channel 4, which got good reviews. More information is available at the Guardian. Perry also gave an interactive tour of the house here, and it is a must-watch.
Chinese architecture firm MAD has broken ground on their first project in Japan, a kindergarten in Okazaki, Aichi that will be designed in the owner’s own family house. The subsequent home-like atmosphere of the “Clover house” is meant to foster the school’s pedagogy of emotional bonds and trust. By making a school that is a shelter, the architects seek to create a haven for education. The transformation of the 1,100 square-foot house began with the reuse of the existing wood structure, which is a relatively standard construction. This skeleton is covered y a new skin and structure, which has a blurry relationship with the existing form, including a pitched roof that frames interior spaces while telling a story about the history of the structure. The new skin drapes over the building to cast the old structure in a new light. The architects want it to be like a “mystical cave and a pop-up fort,” and this sense of playfulness is continued in the design of the house, as the building is wrapped in a series of paper-like pieces that act as a canvas for students to draw on. The kindergarten is scheduled for completion in December 2015.
A rambling, gravity-defying structure in Willow, Alaska has drawn a bevy of curious onlookers, who have dubbed it “the Dr. Seuss house.” The structure was built in the aftermath of a forest fire once the trees had regrown, obscuring the owner’s view of nearby Mount McKinley and the Denali National Park. The previous owner spent a decade adding floors, but when he died abruptly, the tower was abandoned for 10 years. Renovations were then taken over a by a new occupant to add more stories, and the sky-piercing structure now comprises 12 floors that gradually taper in square footage. The building bears a striking resemblance to the winding, often structurally implausible structures incorporating endless staircases in Theodor Giesel’s fictional town of Whoville, which is rumored to be based on the Massachusetts town of Easthampton, as well as treehouse designs. The Giesel Library by William Pereira at San Diego State University, almost as much a spectacle as the so-called “Dr. Seuss house,” is named after the legendary storyteller and illustrator himself. The brutalist structure features gravity-defying concrete levels extending from a tapered base.
Home expansion becomes ungraceful when it dwarfs its context—be it Corinthian pillars among shingle-style houses or an imposingly large annex. With this in mind, a family of five decided to extend their modest weatherboard dwelling upward rather than outward. “Australia is wide and flat. As a result, our homes are wide and flat,” said Andrew Maynard Architects, which was commissioned for the project. Tower House in Victoria, Australia comprises a series of five interconnected, tower-like buildings with triangular roofs that not only heighten ceilings but compartmentalize the home into high-end, treehouse-like nooks and crannies for the twin eight-year-old boys to unleash their imaginations. The house now accommodates a library, an astroturfed getaway nook in the center of the home, and a study room for the kids with floor-to-ceiling shelving, over which a hammock-like net is suspended for them to relax and study. The triangular-shaped towers resemble a tiny village from the outside, but indoors, the home is much less compact than it appears. The family requested a home “for community, art and nature to come together,” and Tower House checks all three boxes. While the backyard is fenced off, the front yard has been transformed into a communal vegetable plot where visitors are welcome to help themselves or take up shovel and hoe. “Rather than simply extrude the existing structure, the new form runs along the south side to maximize sunlight exposure,” the architects wrote in Archdaily. Completed in 2014, the “anti-monolith” home was designed not to impose on the surrounding modest brick and weatherboard homes and country lane-like roads.
Palm Springs Modernism Week is in its tenth year of celebrating the city's architectural masterpieces and tracts of mid-century modern houses. The Architects Newspaper is, for the sixth year, a media sponsor of Modernism Week, and we are here in the Mojave desert reporting on its numerous events. One of the highlights is the Sunday discussion and round table, "Why Isn’t the 1947 Neutra Kaufmann House on the National Register?" This working panel hosted by the California State Historic Resources Commission’s (SHRC) Modernism Committee will look at the Kaufmann house and other case studies in order to challenge "the integrity and standards used to evaluate National Register nominations" and ask whether they need to change when evaluating "the material realities of mid-century modern structures; materials that were often mass-produced, vulnerable, and easily replaced." The panel will include: architectural historian and California State Historic Resources Commission Beth Edwards Harris; well-known historian Alan Hess; Michigan preservationists Brian Conway, Katie Horak, Christine Lazzaretto. I am also on the panel and will discuss the research and remaking of the Lever Houses curtain wall. There are still a few tickets available for the event. Why Isn’t the 1947 Neutra Kaufmann House on the National Register? Hilton Palm Springs, Horizon Ballroom 400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM, $12
Known for being economical in terms of space and sticker price, prefabricated homes are also boasting increasingly abbreviated build times. One modest-sized dwelling in Castlemaine, Australia took a mere 10 days to construct and garnered an esteemed sustainability marque from PassivHaus to boot. One of the world’s fastest-growing energy performance standards, ‘Passive House’ accreditation is doled out solely to homes operating on 90 percent less energy than traditional homes. For consideration, three eco-friendly parameters are paramount: thermal performance, airtightness, and ventilation. The most efficient homes use the sun, internal heat sources, and heat recovery for insulation, avoiding the need for energy-guzzling radiators even in the icy throes of winter. At just 419 square feet, the Passive House in Castlemaine, Australia (the first in the country to receive this certification) comprises a wooden frame with wool and fiber insulation and a facade clad in steel to confer a modern look. Further insulation comes from the triple-glazed windows and specially engineered seals protecting the windows and floors, which is made from an air-tight membrane called Intello. Keeping the interior snug and toasty year-round is an energy recovery system which, contrary to ordinary logic, funnels air into the house, heating it in the winter and cooling it in the summer at low running cost while also keeping moisture out. The system also tamps down heat transfer, giving the exterior of the house a u-value (heat transfer coefficient) of 0.261 watts per square meter. The lower a home’s u-value, the better its insulation. As a result, annual heating, electricity and hot water demands for the Castlemaine Passivhaus are a mere 11 kilowatt hours per square foot. Designed by Australian architectural firm CARBONlite, which specializes in prefab homes, the various sections of the Castlemaine dwelling were built off-site over a 5-day period. Once assembled on site, the exterior was erected and the building made wind and watertight that same day. The house has a mono pitch roof with an overhang to provide shade and minimize overheating during Australia’s scorching summers.
AN has an exclusive look at a new home in Golden Beach, Florida designed by Chad Oppenheim of Oppenheim Architecture + Design. If we’re being honest here, the 23,000-square-foot home is really more of a resort masquerading as a private residence. Or maybe it's a private residence masquerading as a resort. Either way, the home is massive and packed with amenities. First, 699 Ocean Boulevard has a 5,000-square-foot spa that is twice the size of the average new home built in America. Inside the mansion-sized home spa is a steam room, sauna, arctic room (what?), treatment baths, and a sunken hammam room. There’s also a “spa pool with jets” and a “lap pool with a waterfall.” The very, very large home is comprised of stacked concrete volumes that are visually softened by overgrown vegetation and moveable vertical wood slats that act as a shading system. Massive window panes and openings connect the interior and exterior spaces giving the entire place a very open and airy feel. To complete the natural feel, Oppenheim plants a tall “living wall” of local and exotic flora in the main entryway. If at any point, this home—with its en-suite eight bedrooms—starts to feel a little cramped, there is always the 700-square-foot guest house next door. For the record, that guest is house is 200 square feet smaller than the home's main kitchen. “We worked really hard to make sure this home will enhance every aspect of your life–from pulling into this incredible garage to sitting on a second story terrace or a roof garden and opening the windows that retract automatically into the walls, really helping one connect viscerally to the place,” said Oppenheim in a promotional video for the home. The home is listed at $36 million so booking a few nights at a resort probably makes more sense. Looks like you're going to have to share the hammam room.
Affordable housing has been a critical part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agenda since taking office, promising to create or preserve 200,000 affordable units over the next decade. At a press conference last week, the mayor announced that his administration has made headway toward achieving this ambitious goal, financing over 17,300 affordable homes in the last year (whether his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, should have received some credit for this accomplishment has spurred debate). But even with this good news, the demand for affordable housing continues to grow. To help fix this shortage, the administration might want to take a cue from Dutch developer, Heijmans ONE, which has come up with its own win-win idea for alleviating the housing crunch in the Netherlands: putting vacant land to good use with temporary, portable housing. Heijmans ONE designed a one-bedroom prefab house that can be easily assembled in just one day. The house, which rents for 700 euros or $900, kills two birds with one stone: provides an affordable dwelling and activates empty land while construction is stalled on a project. These sleek, pentagonal-shaped homes are designed to have a small carbon footprint, using sustainable wood and solar panels. Once constructed, the house can be connected to the city’s water and sewage, but also designed to operate off the grid. New York City, with its paucity of affordable housing and glut of vacant land, could benefit from this model. Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Housing Preservation & Development have already started rolling out a plan to develop over a 1,000 city-owned properties. In the meantime, why not bring some temporary, affordable housing to sites waiting for long-term development?
The style of architecture known as "mid-century modern" is a cousin to the "International style." A popular combination of European stylistic tendencies and domestic American influences, including furniture design, it has become an influential catch all term for distinguished post-World War II structures and commercial tract homes (like the Eichler Homes). While the style has become widely popular in lifestyle magazines like Dwell and even replicated in new suburban developments, the original homes are being regularly torn down and being replaced with bloated McMansions that have shoe closets the size of the former mid-century living rooms. But the style has a huge following and a number of organizations to highlight and preserve is monuments. Docomomo has been in the lead highlighting these structures and Palm Springs was one of the first city to host a "modernism week." The latest city to create a week of activities devoted to the style is Sarasota, Florida, which along with Palm Springs and New Canaan, Connecticut, were experimental centers of the style. The Florida city also had a gifted number of architects working in the style: Paul Rudolph and his early mentor Ralph Twitchell, Gene Leedy, Victor Lundy, Tim Seibert, and Carl Abbott. The four day event of lectures, city and house tours that took place this fall was a model of how a community can highlight its unique but disappearing history. The week was created the Sarasota Architectural Foundation (founded by Martie Lieberman, a realtor who specializes in the style of homes) which is trying to promote the city's modern architecture. It hopes to raise awareness of the style so its buildings can be preserved, updated, and even become a model of a future architecture that is more responsive to needs and demands than the typical McMansion. Sarasota prides itself on its modern history and was a unique crossroads of culture, commerce, and environment after World War II that helped birth this style. The week also highlighted the fascinating figure of Philip Hiss III who moved to the beach community in 1948 and became a major figure in the community. He was chair of its education department (which commissioned Paul Rudolph to design two high schools) and a developer of the modernist community Lido Shores. The Foundation is hoping to make their week an annual affair and the area has the modern assets to make it work.
Philip Johnson’s only Dallas residential design, The Beck House (1964), has hit the market with a $27.5 million asking price. Current owners Naomi Aberly and Larry Lebowitz—who famously hosted President Barack H. Obama twice within the home’s white walls at fundraising events—recently spent seven years conducting a detailed modernization and renovation of the modernist palace, as well as a re-landscaping of the 6.45-acre park that surrounds it. Dallas firm Bodron + Fruit touched up the architecture, including adding a pavilion beside the new pool, while Massachusetts-based Reed Hilderbrand worked on the grounds.
Preservation and new development are often at odds, but sometimes Chicago has its cake and eats it, too. Case-in-point: the Harriet F. Rees House, a landmark on both local and national lists that happens to share an address with an arena and hotel complex planned for the South Loop. The Rees House is currently the only building on the 2100 block of S. Prairie Ave., but on Tuesday it begins its two day journey 600 feet north to 2017 S. Prairie Ave. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (McPier), a semi-public entity that oversees Navy Pier and the McCormick Place Convention Center, sued to gain control of the property earlier this year. Now McPier is paying $6 million to move the remarkably well-preserved 19th century townhouse to make room for a Pelli Clarke Pelli–designed arena for DePaul University that is expected by the end of 2016. They will also pay $1.9 million to acquire the land and $450,000 to compensate Rees house owner Sam Martorina for loss of use of the property during the moving process this summer, reported Crain's Chicago Business. This feat of engineering will clear land in the South Loop for a series of developments including a hotel, office space and an arena that the city has agreed to help finance with public tax benefits—not without controversy—because it is intended to boost economic activity associated with the massive convention center. Construction firm Bulley & Andrews is working with Wolfe House Building & Movers to roll the 762-ton house up the street, employing massive dollies and a steel exoskeleton to stabilize the historic structure during its journey. The wheeled dollies are semi-automated and will begin the move Tuesday morning. The Rees House is expected to arrive in its new location by Wednesday afternoon. A webcam will monitor the move here. Built in 1888, the three-story brick and limestone mansion won recognition from the national register of historic places in 2012. It was built for the widow of real estate pioneer and land surveyor James H. Rees, and remains a well-maintained example of Romanesque Revival architecture. Impressive though the move is, it's not the only time Chicago has heaved hefty buildings instead of opting for demolition. As Josh Mogerman wrote for Chicagoist earlier this year, Chicago's oldest house—the nearby Henry Clarke Mansion—was lifted and relocated twice. Much of Chicago itself was hoisted hydraulically as the booming city overwhelmed its swampy foundations. The Rees House will be registered once again as a national landmark at its new address—assuming it gets there in one piece.