If you live in the forest, you make your house out of wood. If you live by the river, you make your house out of stones. It’s an old idea: use the available material.
So what if you live in California? The history of California architecture is full of strong examples of structures that use simple materials, and marry those materials to a natural setting. I’ve been around craftsman homes since I was 8, when I moved to a neighborhood full of modest bungalows in South Pasadena. I often visited the work of Greene and Greene, and I still do. The Gamble House is just across the Arroyo Seco from my present home. I still walk along the streets nearby, where the Greene brothers’ designs abound. On the banks of the Arroyo, there are plenty of homes built of sticks and stones. Rounded river rocks and long shaped beams, in combination with generous overhangs, are typical. The walls surrounding the houses are built with masses of granite and brick.
Recently, I re-read some of the essays in an architectural classic, Five California Architects, by Esther McCoy. Included, of course, are the formative architects Bernard Maybeck, Irving Gill, and R. M. Schindler—in addition to the Greene brothers. Active at that time were many others. One who designed major projects was Julia Morgan. I recently took a road trip through central California, and decided to stay overnight at Asilomar, a conference grounds and resort (though hardly luxurious) near Monterey.
Asilomar, now a state park, was designed by Julia Morgan as a conference and meeting place for women in the early 20th century. Based on lodge designs, and built from the forest and the stream, the buildings are set in an ideal location: Pacific Grove, near the famed 17 mile drive in Monterey. The name “Asilomar” translates to “refuge by the sea.” Here, Morgan worked within the fragile ecosystem and serene landscape. Blending into the pines and sand dunes, leading to the sea…with buildings made of wood and stone.