Utopia rules at Sea Ranch, a community born of ’60s Idealism

By Alice Gregory
Photograph of the Sea Ranch Chapel at night by Peter Sidell
CALIFORNIA---The idea of enforced tastefulness rings all sorts of alarm bells in me — but only, if I’m being honest, when considering it in the abstract. There’s a certain luxury in surrendering oneself to absolute niceness. When I drove up there earlier this year, I stayed at the Sea Ranch Lodge, one of the development’s first buildings, and for 48 hours did little more than stare at the shore from bed, wander between mostly empty rooms on a slightly elevated catwalk slick with moss, and eat meals from a glass-walled corner of the restaurant. As otherworldly as the place is, it also felt strangely familiar. In many ways, Sea Ranch is the urtext for all that is most coveted today: fresh, local food, minimalist clothes, midcentury interiors. [link]

lockwise from left: Lawrence Halprin, the landscape architect who founded Sea Ranch, on the site in 1968; Condominium One, the community’s first building, with its redwood exterior and ocean views; Halprin’s ‘‘ecoscore,’’ illustrating the forces that have shaped the Sonoma Coast over 2,000 years.
Clockwise from left: the Pop graphics of the Moonraker Recreation Center, built in 1966; workshop participants making model cities out of driftwood on the beach in 1968; modernist wooden exteriors at the Sea Ranch.