In 1964, when Oceanic Properties, Inc. decided to build a new town, Al Boeke, architect and Vice President for Community Planning, was sent to California from his Hawaiian headquarters to find the right site. Al fell in love with the barren and grand Rancho Del Mar owned by Ed Ohlson and his family. He recommended Oceanic purchase the entire ranch property. To give tangible, visible form to the principle of harmony between inhabitants and nature, Boeke assembled a stellar group of architects and design professionals. Lawrence Halprin, landscape architect, studied the topography, weather and vegetation that inspired the original master plan. His vision was based largely on the historical and ecological community.
For prototype buildings, Oceanic hired the architectural firm of Moore, Lyndon, Turnbull and Whitaker to design Condominium One along the bluffs and architect Joseph Esherick to design a cluster of houses nestled in a hedgerow. The original designers evolved a concept of dynamic conservation or ‘living lightly on the land.’ A covenant would enforce stewardship of natural resources through an owners’ association of residents who felt an instinctive relationship with the environment.
Meant to be experienced as much as to be spelled out, the concept of ‘living lightly on the land’ starts with respect for nature. Each landscape element should be recognized and nurtured, reinforcing natural forms and scale. The specific site provides the identity, establishing a ‘territorial partnership’ with any structure placed within it, not upon it. Building materials should be drawn from nature: rough and simple.
Their challenge was to demonstrate that people can inhabit a beautiful and fragile land located along a wild stretch of the California coast without destroying it. Adherence to their original architectural and design concepts resulted in the evolution of an ‘intentional community’, one that is unique on the California coast, if not the world. It is the willingness of The Sea Ranch community, past and present, to engage in informed planning for its future, and to instill in its membership an enduring commitment to environmental stewardship and community service.