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Sea Ranch Chapel Has Organic Form (USA)

Credits: ©2010 Hubbell and Hubbell

The Sea Ranch chapel, commissioned by a private party, took nearly a year to complete. This non-denominational chapel is dedicated to the memory of Kirk Ditzler whose drawings were the foundation for the design. The roof gives a sense of sweeping, lifting movement, achieved by its manifold profiles. Its structure is inspired by winged forms, yet can be read in a number of different ways. Yet despite the great variety of shape and form, the 360 foot square chapel achieves an underlying feeling of unity.


Sea Ranch Exterior

Sea Ranch Chapel. ©2010 Robert Powers

James Hubbell has an almost democratic approach to his work. He involves his coworkers according to their abilities; and in this particular project the work was delegated to Tambe Kumaran. He and a team of highly skilled craftsmen set about realizing Hubbell's design from a small model and 1/4 inch engineering drawings.

The chapel sits on a gently sloping site and is constructed on a six inch concrete slab with 12 inch foundation walls, filled with concrete block. The main structure of the building is made of wood siding which was dried and molded in place to create a shell. The curves of the roof were extremely difficult to accomplish, and Kumaran drew from his boat building experience to achieve both the curves and the chapel's even shingled surface. The materials used for this project are among the architect's favorites: a combination of stained glass, ceramics, metal and plasterwork.

Brightly colored stained glass windows illuminate the interior which is large enough to seat up to 40 people. The interior is adorned by a white plaster 'flower' sculpture which caps the inner space, lining the ceiling and supporting a metal lighting fixture. A redwood pillar and other free form structures, such as a metal and glass screen in the corner, decorate the inside of Sea Ranch Chapel.

The Chapel is maintained for the use and enjoyment of the public by the non-profit Sea Ranch Chapel Foundation. Funding for Chapel operations depends on donations and special events fees, as well as income produced by the original endowment.

The Chapel was the gift of Sea Ranch residents Robert and Betty Buffum, who envisioned a place for meditation and spiritual renewal at the Sea Ranch. Their interest and generosity spanned every aspect of realizing this vision: purchasing the site, engaging the architect, financing the construction, and endowing a foundation for the maintenance of the Chapel.

The Buffums were familiar with the work of internationally renowned San Diego artist and architect James T. Hubbell, and engaged him to design the Chapel. Hubbell has received numerous awards for his work in design, sculpture, wood, glass, stone, and metal. Among them, a 1985 "Special Award for Excellence in Craftsmanship" from the California Council of the American Institute of Architects particularly recognized his work on The Sea Ranch Chapel.



  Sea Ranch Chapel Article June 1992 (3,748 kb)


Hubbell and Hubbell

Sea Ranch Chapel Website