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Jan. 28, 2020 | Tuesday
Editorials and Opinions
ArchiText: The shed evolves
An example of the evolved shed, featuring shed dormers. (Brian Marshall/Special)

The year is 1963 and north of San Francisco one of the first eco-developments is being planned. Two creative architectural firms are engaged: one to design the condo townhouses, and the other for the detached home designs.

Both have defined guidelines requiring that the buildings sit gently on the terrain, be fully integrated with the landscape and, if possible, incorporate the fledging principles of passive solar.

Although purportedly each firm acted in isolation, the resultant designs were so remarkably similar it’s difficult to believe that some level of collaboration did not take place. But, be that as it may, from the Sea Ranch development came the seeds of a new style that gave architects the opportunity to explore new, dynamic spatial relationships and emerging eco-technologies.

So, what did this new style look like?

First, picture a simple backyard shed with the front wall higher than the back wall and a single plane roof set directly on these walls; essentially a box with a canted roof. Next, expand the scale of this shed to a point where it is large enough to encompass comfortable living space. Then, make several in various sizes and arrange them in row, or around a courtyard, or bunched together, and you have the basics of a Shed design.

In our town we have several outstanding interpretations of the Shed style. Although most lack the ribbon of clerestory windows associated with passive solar integration, the forms, elements and lines of these homes are true to the style.

Consider the Campbell Scott House at the corner of Bryon and Wellington in Old Town. Laid out in a courtyard arrangement, its cedar shakes and rough-sawn vertical board siding are in complete affinity with the original Sea Ranch designs.

In comparison, the example shown in our photo is a “bunched” arrangement on which the diagonally installed smooth board siding and the brick veneer of the lower facade signal later elaborations of the style.

Windows are typically tall and narrow while the chimney (if any) is rectangular, often wood clad, topped by exposed metal chimney flues. But overall, it is the interplay of the various clean, simple diagonal roof lines that leaves a lasting impression.