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Carefree California: Cliff May and the Romance of the Ranch House
by Jocelyn Gibbs and Nicholas Olsberg ; photography by Carefree California/Rizzoli

Published in conjunction with the recent exhibition at the Art, Design, and Architecture Museum at UCSB, this book is such a delight for fans of the Southern California ranch vernacular. The profusely illustrated book includes original drawings and plans, along with archival and current photos. Examples of marketing materials that promoted the carefree lifestyle "guaranteed" in new homes actually use the architect as a selling point ("It’s FUN to Live in a Cliff May Magazine Cover Home").

There’s the requisite chapter on Ramona and the Old West, along with guest essays discussing the antecedents, redefinition, and resulting modernism of the iconic ranch house. A portfolio of images by fine-art photographer Catherine Opie adds another layer of interpretation. In relationship to May’s work, that of other noted architects-Hunt, Gill, Schindler, Neutra, Davidson, Coate, Weber, etc.-is explored along with the role of homeowners, developers, and bankers.

The book is divided into four sections, each with an introductory essay by Gibbs and/or Olsberg. "Looking for California in the Archives" discusses Mission, Spanish, and Mediterranean Revival architecture, as well as the introduction of Monterey and Modernism. "Reconstituting the Ranch House" looks at old California vernacular adobes, ranchos, tracts, and country clubs. "Prototypes and Possibilities" reviews small-unit typologies, post-war low-cost housing, Case Study Houses, and the effect of publications such as Sunset and House Beautiful on the widespread communication of the California lifestyle. "Ranch House as Idea" goes into detail on May’s own residences as well as his custom homes. Bibliography and listing of selected May works round out the offerings.

Rizzoli; hardcover; 276 pages; $45

 

 

 

 
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