Monterey Peninsula: Carmel's architectural masterpieces

Road Journals Blog—Stroll through the tree-lined neighborhoods of Carmel-by-the-Sea and you’ll pass dozens of eye-catching houses, from froufrou gingerbread Victorians to thatch-roofed bungalows straight out of a fairy tale. Most are built to impress.

Not so Frank Lloyd Wright’s seaside masterwork, the Walker Residence, which you could easily miss at first if you don’t know to look for it.


Walker residence, by Frank Lloyd Wright | C.W. Cohenour/Flickr

Which is just what Wright wanted. His “prescription for a modern house” was simple in statement, although very difficult to pull off. First, he prescribed finding a good building site with plenty of character. “Then," he wrote, "build your house so that you may still look from where you stood upon all that charmed you and lose nothing of what you saw before the house was built, but see more.”

With the Walker house, built in 1948, Wright got it exactly right. The house seems like a natural extension of the rocky promontory upon which it’s built, cantilevered out over the beach. The low copper roof and tan-colored stones echo colors of the surrounding sand and cypresses. The sides of the house that face the water are almost entirely glass, giving the house a weightless quality from certain angles. Seen from the side, in fact, you can look straight through the living room to the curving beach on the other side.

The house is privately owned, so you can’t tour the interior. It’s easy to imagine, however, the spectacular views its lucky residents enjoy.

Just southeast of the house, an easy walk away, is another architectural gem that you can visit inside and out—the poet Robinson JeffersTor House. Jeffers and his wife, Una, began work on the house in 1918, using granite from the area. The lovely stone structure is modeled on a Tudor farmhouse. A few years later Jeffers commenced construction on the nearby Hawk Tower, modeled after the ancient structures that dot the Irish countryside.

(Tours are conducted by the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation; $10 adults, $5 students 12 and over.)

Peter Jaret wrote about Carmel, Monterey, and Pebble Beach in February, 2011.

This blog post was first published in March 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.