An iconic piece of architecture has hit the real estate market in northern Sonoma’s oceanfront community The Sea Ranch. With an $8 million asking price, the cliffside estate of late landscape architect and Sea Ranch master planner Lawrence Halprin will be open for offers until Oct. 15.
Halprin, who passed away in 2009, was among a group of architecture faculty at UC Berkeley, who, in the early 1960s, were tasked to transform a 5,200-acre sheep ranch on the Sonoma Coast into a modernist residential community. Halprin and his colleagues envisioned a community in harmony with nature; Halprin defined its guiding ethos — “living lightly on the land.” Typical features of suburbia and non-native plants were banned. No lawns, no palm trees and no fences were allowed.
While devising the Sea Ranch master plan, Halprin also made sure that the new dwellings wouldn’t obscure the rugged coastline. He wanted to protect the area from the kind of mansions typically built on expensive ocean-view properties, a phenomenon he called the “Malibu wall,” referring to the miles-long row of three-story luxury homes along the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica through Malibu.
At The Sea Ranch, homes dotted the area, while ocean views remained. The community’s radically restrained approach to residential development and its unadorned wooden houses soon garnered international attention.
The Halprin estate for sale today is an expansion of a cabin the landscape architect and his colleagues designed for the lot in the 1960s. The simple dwelling by the sea provided creative inspiration to Halprin and his wife, Anna, an accomplished modern dancer. The couple held workshops for their students in an outdoor amphitheater on the property.
Over the decades, Halprin added an additional level, an adjacent studio and a Carnelian granite fireplace to the property. (The fireplace references the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial Halprin designed in the 1970s. The memorial’s water features are made out of Carnelian granite).
In 2001, a house fire destroyed the oceanfront cabin. Halprin described the subsequent rebuilding process as “at once exciting and emotionally difficult.” The rebuild adhered to The Sea Ranch’s strict building regulations and architectural requirements intended to preserve the community’s harmony with nature. Halprin was able to add a room for his grandchildren, a larger kitchen and a study for Anna. Single-sloped roofs run parallel to the hillside. Wood siding blends seamlessly with the land.
The sale of the Halprin estate comes at a time when the local real estate market is hitting price records monthly. Listing agent Hanne Lissberg says “prices (at Sea Ranch) are up 41% over the last year with an average price of almost $1.5 million, on par with San Francisco and Santa Barbara or double the Sonoma County average.” Just this year, 77 homes at The Sea Ranch have sold.
Click through the above gallery to peek inside the Halprin estate.