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Selected Articles

Sea Ranch, California’s Modernist Utopia, Gets an Update

Demographic shifts. Climate change. The internet. "Sea Ranch is changing, like our society," said the architect Mary Griffin. "We simply can't build the way we did even 20 years ago."


SEA RANCH, Calif. — It was an era of now unimaginable optimism, when one believed that architecture and planning could save the world — or at least save the environment. In 1964, a group of architecture faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, some only in their 20s, were entrusted by developer Al Boeke with ten miles of magnificent California coastline three hours north of San Francisco.  Read More 

Writing on the Wall: William Kentridge in Rome

Rome has been waiting for contemporary works of public art that can stand up to the historic city's glorious monuments from the Renaissance and antiquity. Where the architects Richard Meier and Zaha Hadid tried, and failed in the opinion of many, with their new freestanding buildings, South African artist William Kentridge has now succeeded with Triumphs and Laments: A Project for Rome, his grand frieze along the Tiber embankment, which debuted April 21 with a concert by Kentridge and composer Philip Miller, his longtime collaborator.  Read More 

Making a Minimalist Statement

- David Chipperfield brings a meticulous Modernist sensibility to his renovation of Berlin’s Neues Museum, as well as new structures around the globe

One of the most celebrated events in museum architecture in recent years turned out to be, oddly enough, a restoration. Berlin’s World War II–damaged Neues Museum was rebuilt under the direction of English architect David Chipperfield, finally ending its 60 years as a roofless war ruin flanking the grand Pergamon. Read More 

A Sea Change Where the View Once Ruled

SEA RANCH, Calif. - HERE on the California coast, 110 miles north of San Francisco, a community begun in the spirit of the 1960's struggles to maintain its architectural ideals.

Beginning in 1964, Lawrence Halprin, a San Francisco landscape architect, and Charles Moore, a progenitor of postmodernism, led a youthful team of like-minded Bay Area designers in establishing the Sea Ranch development. Their approach united the emerging field of ecology with an inventive architecture. Along 10 miles of rugged coastline, they built weekend houses that were remarkably attuned to the windswept landscape of dense woods and open meadows. Sea Ranch came to evoke the image of seemingly endless boulder-strewn meadows sweeping along the heaving Pacific.  Read More 

Peter Zumthor: Architecture's Swiss Mystic

HALDENSTEIN, Switzerland - THE image of the mountain mystic clings to Peter Zumthor, the former cabinetmaker and surveyor who is a leader of the new Swiss architecture. A visit to Mr. Zumthor is not unlike a pilgrimage. It can take all day to traverse the mountain valleys from Zurich to this farming hamlet of 700 in the southeastern corner of the country. Here, among the music of cowbells and smells of the chicken coops is Mr. Zumthor's studio, distinguishable from his neighbors' wooden barns by its high-style metal door.  Read More 

Will the Caged Rock Fly in the Napa Valley?

YOUNTVILLE, Calif. - ALONG Route 29 in Northern California, the main drag of the Napa Valley wine country, most wineries announce their presence with billboard-size gates. At the new Dominus, you see only a long, low building set back among the vineyards. But there is something about this simple stone structure that makes you look twice.  Read More 

Jefferson's Paris

The ambassador from an infant republic spent five enchanted years in the French capital at a time when monarchy was giving way to revolution. Walking the city streets today, you can still feel the extravagant spirit of the city and the era he knew.


“Paris is every day enlarging and beautifying,” Thomas Jefferson noted with satisfaction during his residence there as minister to France. The city under construction was a delight to Jefferson, the art patron and amateur architect. Read More 

Gertrude Jekyll: In Her Own Images, A New 'Aunt Bumps'

Gertrude Jekyll is famous the world over as the mother of the lush English garden. But her legacy is thriving in the dry hills of Berkeley.

The pioneering landscape architect never visited this country; she conducted her career from a 15-acre garden in Surrey. Yet, her garden plans and photographs are one of the treasures of the University of California at Berkeley, where they have resided since 1955 and where they are the centerpiece of a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Jekyll's birth. An exhibition of her photographs, running through Sept. 19 at the University Art Museum, is a sign of the change in Jekyll's image from Edwardian lady gardener to modern superwoman.  Read More 

Prophet with Honor: Frank Lloyd Wright

In the parlor game of classifying art as elitist or populist, Frank Lloyd Wright qualifies as a geniune populist. A son of the Midwestern heartland who was brought up by farmers and preachers. Wright conquered twentieth-century architecture in the name of a particularly American kind of genius. His were the virtues of frontier individualism: stamina, practical ingenuity, a cranky independence of mind, a boundless belief in his own destiny. In an architectural career that extended from 1893 to 1959, Wright produced a thousand designs (half of them were built) for every region of the country. Although he attempted every type of building, including the skyscraper, Wright earned his fame as a designer of houses. He claimed that "the small house" was the architect's greatest challenge, and he applied a dazzling inventiveness not only to homes for the wealthy, but custom houses for school teachers and newspaper reporters, prototype homes for women's magazines, prefabricated houses and suburban plans that integrated his residences into a total community. Read More