Architectural Manifesto

Architectural Manifesto

The modest manifesto of the Santa Lucia Preserve.


In the Santa Lucia Preserve, roads bend around the tawny haunches of lion colored grasses and under stands of mature sycamore, oak and pine. This is Northern California as it appeared to the first settlers. The rolling land with soft hills and valleys is undisturbed by signs or shops. Soft sunlight filters through mists rising from the Pacific Ocean. Expansive, unpopulated and unspoiled. Just looking at it raises the question; ‘How do you build a house in such a place?’

The struggle between nature and culture is the perennial subject of architecture. The historian Vincent Scully proposed that architecture is essentially the reflection of
Architectural Manifesto - Natural Architecture, Environmentally Inspired Architecture
humanity’s response to the natural world. While Native Americans may have seen man’s role as integrated with nature, the history of Western architecture from the Greeks and Romans through the Enlightenment often reflects man’s efforts to establish order in an unpredictable environment. By the middle of the nineteenth century, however, nature had come to be perceived as a paradise about to be lost. Architects responded with buildings that celebrated the environment. Inspired by Louis Sullivan, they started conceiving organically oriented buildings that were appropriate to their place and to their residents.

The notion of living in harmony with nature is interwoven with the very origins of the Santa Lucia Preserve as a sacred Indian territory. The Preserve’s Design Review Board is charged with maintaining this respect for the land, even as it is being settled. As Preserve patrons become custodians of the land, they are encouraged to hire architects to build their homes, specifically architects who will be sensitive to the spectacular surroundings.

San Francisco’s revered early twentieth century architect, Bernard Maybeck said, “This is something bigger and more worthwhile than the things we see about us, the things we live by and strive for. There is an undiscovered beauty, a divine excellence, just beyond us. Let us stand on tiptoe, forgetting the nearer things and grasp what we may.”

Maybeck, like the Greene and Greene brothers of Pasadena, embraced the philosophy and skill of the Arts and Crafts movement. Their homes established continuity between interior and exterior spaces and a refinement of proportion and detail. They are among California’s select but important roster of architects who built with awareness and integrity. In fact, the seeds of contemporary California style can be seen in the early twentieth century Spanish-style mansions of Wallace Neff or Julia Morgan; the rustic ranch houses of Cliff May; the tasteful modernity of Frank Lloyd Wright. These architects have passed into history but they worked in California when much of it still resembled the countryside of The Preserve. Their sensibilities fit seamlessly into the landscape of the present.
Architectural Manifesto - Natural Architecture, Environmentally Inspired Architecture

A landowner in The Preserve would want to seek out an architect who respects the principles and aesthetics of such predecessors while developing a personal style. The architectural vocabulary need not be slavishly historic but to draw from the past for what works best today. The architect derives his ideas from tradition, adhering to the basic principles and respecting the larger community while constructing a unique and individual structure.

Barry Sloane, Director of Historic and Architecturally Significant Properties at Sotheby’s International Realty, says, “Architectural properties always sell at a premium. The minimum increase is ten percent in a flat market and in a good market, more. It means that you have a house with close to perfectly scaled and proportioned rooms, that are a pleasure to live in and easy to resell. Plus, for people who have not lived in an architecturally-designed house, the quality of life in a house custom-designed by a good architect means that one will spend decades living at a higher level. Every day, one will be surrounded by a shelter of great beauty, which is an experience like no other.

“Unique people should have unique solutions,” he adds. “Not an off the rack home but bespoke, made to measure, like the best suits, and for the same reason; they are longer lasting, better looking, and a good value. It is a good financial investment, but also an investment in your quality of life.”

The floor plan is just one aspect of an architectural property. At The Preserve, the architect must begin with the site, not the floor plan. The site may be adjacent to the golf course, down by the equestrian center or up on a hilltop with views of the bay. One wants to find an architect who, regardless of style, respects the land and the context. Within a stylistic framework, a good architect will make decisions of distinction, such as choosing to nestle a house into a cranny instead of piling it up on a ridgeline, to arrange the mass of a large house in a way that adds pleasant and varied spaces.

Architectural Manifesto - Natural Architecture, Environmentally Inspired Architecture

Miraculously intact after two centuries, the legacy of The Preserve can be maintained and enhanced by those who have studied the best solutions to the development of form in space – architects who are credited for their work, published, and lauded by their peers. Wright believed that if mankind were set into the fabric of nature, he would respond positively and grow spiritually.

Unparalleled in exclusivity and value; The Preserve deserves the best architecture, just as a masterpiece painting deserves a well-appointed room or a gourmet meal deserves a great wine. Homes of architectural distinction can only enhance The Preserve’s legacy for future generations.

In short, the investment in an architectural home pays off in terms of its value at resale, in terms of the enhanced value of the larger community and, most importantly, in terms of emotional and spiritual wellbeing, the vital investment in self.