After hearing about Mickey Meunnig from Fred Stitt at San Francisco Institute of Architecture (http://www.sfia.net/), I wanted to meet the creative organic architect on the cloudy coast. I had heard he might not be willing to meet me, but he was charming, kind and thoughtful when we met him for coffee at Deetjen’s in Big Sur. He complimented Art and my house, which he’d seen in photos. He said Art’s work was “well-detailed and organic,” that he works to understand the client and the site, something the two architects have in common. We talked about the future of organic architecture. He said, “people don’t have faith in the built world anymore. They’re afraid to be unconventional, afraid to spend money on anything that isn’t conventional and safe.” He said that for clients to take the risk, they must already be “leaning that way,” toward the unconventional. “They must have a desire; they see something in [this architecture] that strikes a chord with them.”
Meunnig’s advice to young architects is: “If you’re not in a hurry, work for someone you admire rather than [rely on] school.”
He said “all arts are the same, really, but architecture includes a lot more things that helps people pull it all together. It’s more of a human thing, living in the art and thinking about it all the time.” He said the built space can influence what you are thinking about.
We also had a chance to meet his partner Diane Bohl at the Post Ranch Mercantile, who lives with him in the Meunnig Residence. As the home is built underground, Diane says she feels protected. At night they look up through a skylight and see foxes or coyotes peering down or condors flying overhead. The trees (including a fruit-bearing banana tree) growing inside the house, she says, are “a lovely idea, but hard to clean.” She smiles sweetly and says, with Mickey, it’s always an adventure. Recently she was surprised by a snake in the house, and she didn’t want to go in. Mickey was unfazed: “oh. that must be the one that was in the bedroom yesterday.” “We’re inside,” she says, “but a part of the outside. It’s wonderful.”
It was our 9th anniversary, and we alternate surprising each other each year. I have the odd years, so this year, I had thought we would go to the Post Ranch Inn, Meunnig’s masterpiece. The Post Ranch Inn is $1,500 per night (!), so we went for dinner, which was still pricey, but an extraordinary meal.
Here are a few of the 13 courses (they said 9, but there were 3 pre-dinner plates and a special happy anniversary plate at the end)
Here are some terrible photos that don’t come close to expressing how lovely the setting was, but, although I was nerdy enough to photograph my food, I didn’t want to make a scene. During the 4-hour meal, a deer and two fawns also feasted right below us, and beyond them was a clear view of the Pacific.
A former apprentice of Mickey’s, Laura Tugwell, also works at Deetjen’s and came in to greet him as we talked. She said his work is “like walking into a hug–it resonates with everything inside me.”
At the Hawthorne Art Gallery on Hwy 1 designed for Greg Hawthorne, we met his daughter Shelby Hawthorne who grew up in the house designed by Meunnig and saw the Hawthorne Gallery going up. As a six-year-old, she saw the framers begin with cement floors and walls and wondered how it would become a building. Growing up in a family of artists, she always knew that everything can be beautiful–“the things in the house, but the house too.” She loves the way the light plays with the interior and exterior, and from the gallery she watches the ever-changing weather. Compared to Oakland and Seattle where she took her training and first job experience (Shelby is a glass artist), the pace of Big Sur is slower, she says, connected to nature and highlighted by the importance ofnature. “It lets you know what’s really important, and what’s really important becomes more obvious in this space.”
Here’s a photo we took of the gallery and a pro photo from the brochure http://www.hawthornegallery.com
Here are some interior shots of the gallery. Shelby says the space Meunnig designed is good for selling modern art. Although the building is 18 years old (built in 1996), “this design is timeless, continually modern. People can envision the art in their own homes when they see it here.”