Architect William Turnbull (1935-1997) was a notable California architect and in 1965, he was one of a group of , in particular, he was lauded for his 1965-era small house designs at The Sea Ranch, a coastal vacation enclave in Sonoma County, California, about 150 miles north of San Francisco. With the Sea Ranch project — which was architecturally significant in its approach to the adjacent environment, Turnbull and the other contributing architects rejected the modern box-like ranch homes that were being built in plentiful numbers across in California and instead, favored a more rustic style. Could it be these designs foreshadowed the eclectic, hippy funky home designs soon to descend upon American in the 1970s? Seems like it. Recently, houseplans.com acquired three of Turnbull’s historic Sea Ranch cottage designs — and they have made them available to purchase today. If you have a little place in mind for that little cottage of your dreams, perhaps one of Turnbull’s historic designs will fit the bill.
Turnbull’s obituary from the New York Times points out:
… Sea Ranch … not long after its completion in 1965 became an icon of American architecture. Sea Ranch’s shed-like structures of wood, which stood out like abstract sculptures against the craggy Pacific Coast, seemed to be a whole new way of making modern buildings in the early 1960’s, when most sensibilities had been formed by the glass and steel boxes of orthodox modern architecture.
… (The) wooden buildings … were relaxed, almost funky, combining a sense of tradition with abstraction. Sea Ranch soon became the inspiration not only for a new California style of building, but also for hundreds of ski and beach houses on the East Coast.
Al Boeke was the visionary architect behind Sea Ranch overall. He died just one year ago (in 2011). The New York Times also has a lovely write up including calling Sea Ranch:
… a development that set a standard for environmental preservation.
““There was really nothing like this in architecture up to that time, in the mid-’60s,” said Kathryn Smith, an architectural historian and former professor at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, discussing Sea Ranch in an interview Tuesday. “And because it struck a nerve with people who were concerned about preserving the environment, by carrying out its ecological design it ushered in a new style based on integrating with the landscape rather than destroying it.”
The Wikipedia entry on Sea Ranch notes:
… The building typology of the Sea Ranch draws on the local agricultural buildings for inspiration, in the way that those buildings are designed to deal with prevailing weather and topography. Originally, the Sea Ranch had local lumber mills to draw on for the Douglas Fir and Redwood used in the homes.
The press release on houseplans.com gives this information about Turnbull:
We are excited to announce that Houseplans.com has acquired the rights to sell copies of historically important plans by William Turnbull (1935-1997), who was one of California’s most significant architects. These evocative designs for small houses at The Sea Ranch, an ecologically sensitive vacation community on the northern coast of California, are part of our new American Classics Collection. Bill Turnbull first received international attention in the mid-1960s as a principal of Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker (MLTW), designers of the celebrated Condominium 1 and Athletic Club 1 at The Sea Ranch. He collaborated with architects Charles Moore and Donlyn Lyndon throughout his life, but started his own firm, William Turnbull Associates, in 1970. Though Bill designed large scale projects like the Mountain View, California Civic Center, and Napa Valley’s Cakebread Winery, he especially relished house design as a way to explore three dimensional space and architectural relationships to the landscape. A percentage of the price of each plan supports the Environmental Design Archives at U. C. Berkeley, which preserves the drawings and papers of significant California architects and landscape architects. Bill’s vibrant successor firm is Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects: www.tgharchitects.com.
The three William Turnbull Sea House house plans:
ABOVE: Plan 447-1, or Sea Ranch A – was originally used as Sea Ranch Employee housing. Though it is a small house at only 650 square feet, its long front porch that runs the entire front of the structure and interesting roofline give the impression of grandeur.
ABOVE: Plan 447-2 or Sea Ranch B was also used to build Sea Ranch employee housing. At 923 square feet with three bedrooms, this is one of the larger single family vacation homes that Turnbull designed.
ABOVE: The third and historic Turnbull plan is Sea Ranch C — a duplex. Each side of the duplex is 794 sq. ft. and has two bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, kitchen and a covered entry.
How nice it is to see these modest-size historic house plans made available again.