Sea Ranch, photo by Eros Hoagland
"To be properly understood, Modernism is not just a matter of cubist space but of a whole appreciation of environmental design as a holistic approach to the matter of making spaces for people to live...Modernism, as I define it and practice it, includes and is based on the vital archetypal needs of human being as individuals as well as social groups."
The great landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, who passed away last week, once wrote, "Landscape design is about social relevance. It can become poetic and symbolic, but perhaps most importantly, it can articulate a culture's most spiritual values." He was one of a group of architects who conceived and built the utopian community called Sea Ranch along a wind-blown 10-mile stretch of the Northern California coast in the 1960s. Inspired by his experience on a kibbutz, Halprin came up with the idea of "open land held in common and houses designed in deference to nature." Today, much of this Modernist spirit has been supplanted by gargantuan suburban vacation homes, but the nature at Sea Ranch remains untamed. The wind still blows and sculpts the cypress trees into strangely poetic forms, and there are winding paths through meadow grass to rocky headlands. My family and I have spent many wonderful occasions on this mythical place, and the spirit of what inspired Halprin and his colleagues in the original Sea Ranch community still haunts the place.