This journal entry is a repost of the original September 1, 2012 entry.
Last week Bob Pennypacker and I toured the 216 acres comprising the Petersen Ranch on the north edge of Dry Creek Valley. The ranch has recently come up for sale and includes a number of very special home sites (http://bobpennypacker.com/9255DryCreek/). In many ways it is very similar to my own acreage in that it is a combination of oak and Douglas fir forested ridges, deep canyons, vineyards, and a common border with the lands surrounding Lake Sonoma.
The variety of conifer and deciduous trees, high and low elevations, and steep and gradual slopes epitomizes much of what I love about the California landscape. I have always had deeply ingrained feelings for the land and it is natural for me to be respectful of it with every architectural decision our studio makes. It is a shame that so many of us see the landscape as little more than a large placemat upon which to set their building – this kind of thinking falls short of the ultimate opportunity – to form an adaptive partnership with the landscape and almost certainly increase the potential for a memorable accomplishment.
The key here is the ability to read the landscape – as far as the eye can see – and to have both the insight and skill to respond accordingly. Perhaps the worst approach is to compromise the quality of the setting by placing the building directly on the sweet spot. Often, a better approach is to set the building to the side or only partially on the sweet spot and thereby achieve a cohesive of partnership. This approach usually opens many opportunities for developing unique, site specific responses, and when one succeeds at this high level the resulting resonance is truly artful.