Eco-Living Magazine

Design with Landscape in Mind: Al Boeke’s Obituary

Posted on the 21 November 2011 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

Design with Landscape in Mind: Al Boeke’s ObituaryAmong other things, I like to think of myself as well-informed. As an undergraduate I majored in Anthropology (biological, not cultural) and had a secondary focus in Art History. Today, I sit on a US Green Building Council committee focused on green schools and my dissertation proposal for my doctorate incorporates green schools. Given this background and general interest in urban planning, I was surprised to read the obituary of Al Boeke.

I was unfamiliar with Boeke, despite my interest in modernist architecture. According to his obituary in the the New York Times, Boeke was the responsible for the development of nearly 5,200 acres of land north of San Francisco known as Sea Ranch. The project, which is nearly 50 years old, is not what one might envision when thinking of a developer today, or in the 1960s for that matter. Much of Sea Ranch retained its bucolic, picturesque seascape. Building heights were kept to a minimum, and more significantly perhaps, the sheer number of structures was limited so as not to impinge upon the land.

Designing with the landscape in mind, before people even, leads to thoughtful architecture that works within the contours of the environment. Instead of paving over vast swaths of land, an approach that recognizes the value of the landscape and its purpose sits more appropriately. In other words, a development designed for Anytown, USA will not suffice. Specific species of plants are required, not just ornamentals like kudzu   in the south. Intentional design becomes part of the land, seamlessly blending in, looking like it belongs. Does your neighborhood look like it fits the topography? Sadly mine doesn’t. Perhaps if Boeke had a hand in its design the relationship between the built environment and nature would have been different; more well suited to the land.

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