Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Sea Ranch Chapel

While I was at Salt Point, I visited the Sea Ranch Chapel just north of there. The chapel’s a fantastic building designed by San Diego architect James T. Hubbell, commisioned by two sea Ranch residents who wanted to create a ‘nondenominational sanctuary for prayer, meditation, and spiritual renewal.’ I love the form and the blending of materials.

The design was inspired by the drawings of a local artist and is said to be based on winged forms. It also has a bit of shell motif going, though it’s of course abstract enough to offer a variety of interpretations. Personally, I think it resembles a brugmansia flower.

The Hubbell website says the supervisor on the project had experience as a boat builder, which makes a lot of sense; the framing looks like it’s for a boat, and the finished building looks somewhat like a sea vessel sitting on a cradle of rock. The moss rock (aka Sonoma fieldstone) is actually a facade over a cinder block wall, but the batter makes it look structural.

The section and the construction photo are from the chapel’s website, which also has a nice aerial photo of the building.

The interior is as striking as the exterior, with a flagstone floor, stained glass windows, and lots of beautiful woodwork. The windows and the wood made the building feel warm, even though the sky still was gray with its coastal-morning haze.

It’s all very compelling and a steady flow of people visited while I was there, drawn off the highway to investigate. You don’t really see many buildings that combine rock and wood and glass and metal in such a unique way. Really well done.

5 Responses to “Sea Ranch Chapel”

  1. June 19th, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Megan says:

    Love that place! We almost missed it on our trip north last November. Had the place to ourselves after a a couple people finished up smoking a joint inside.

  2. June 20th, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    lostlandscape (James) says:

    In the 80s I pored through piles of architecture books, thinking I might want to shift gears into architecture, and some of the images I remember most clearly are those of the early Sea Ranch structures by Charles Moore and his partners, and the startlingly natural landscaping that oozes a strong sense of place. The chapel in some ways tries a lot harder than everything around, but it still manages to fit in. I can definitely see the brugmansia form you mention–or maybe it’s a psychedelic datura?

  3. July 10th, 2011 at 12:02 am

    william martin says:

    lovely building.

  4. July 18th, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Nicole says:

    Thanks for posting on this very unique and lovely building. It looks so organic from the outside its hard to believe its all man made.

  5. January 5th, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    Donna says:

    Love how you saw the shape of the Chapel in the form of the brugmansia flower. You’re spot with that!

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