Moonrise Kingdom okay, commission says
By Anna Guth
Point Reyes Light
15 June 2017
Photos courtesy Greg Castillo
Image: Associate Professor Greg Castillo stands in front of the famous Howard Waite home in its current pre-restoration shape.
After more than three hours of deliberation at a public hearing last Tuesday, the Marin County Planning Commission greenlighted permits for a proposed development known as Moonrise Kingdom, at the top of Vision Road in Inverness.
The property, which was designed by Howard Waite and includes a 1,610-square-foot cabin known as the “windmill,” a 32-foot-tall structure; an 870-square-foot barn; and a 1,146-square-foot cabin known as Howard’s House, was featured in the recent Hippie Modernism exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), guest curated by Associate Professor of Architecture Greg Castillo.
The decision to approve permitting for Moonrise Kingdom was due in part to a testimony made by Dr. Castillo to the Marin County Planning Commission. After he spoke of the considerable architectural significance of Waite’s designs and their cultural legacy, county staff suggested that the windmill be kept as close to its original form as possible.
“What Waite’s work represented then, as now, was the ‘outlaw builders’ legacy,” he explained in his testimony. “These counterculture craftsmen refused to let building regulations hinder their unbridled creativity.”
Dr. Castillo went on to explain the historic significance of the home, including its inclusion in in the 1975 exhibition “Architecture at the Margins, USA” which opened at the Pompidou Center in Paris and toured numerous European cities from 1975 to 1979 and was seen by thousands.
“Howard Waite’s creations are a Bay Area cultural legacy. His work has gained international recognition twice: once in the mid-1970s in an exhibition that toured Europe, and again forty years later in the 2017 Hippie Modernism show,” Dr. Castillo said. “Waite’s residential compound has found new owners ready to undertake its rescue mission. To prevent them from doing so would sadly impoverish the Bay Area’s architectural heritage.”
Most attendees of the planning commission meeting spoke in favor of the project and the respectful nature of the property owners. Alexis and Trevor Traina, San Francisco residents, have committed to restoring several cabins on the six-acre property that are considered important examples of the hand-built house movement of the 1960s. “This has been nothing short of a spectacular response to a very unique, amazing site,” commission chair John Eller said of the plans before casting his vote of approval.
The plans outline a new home with a building area of 4,481 square feet and a floor area of 3,993 square feet, as well as the legalization and restoration of the three primary structures built by Waite. Richard Olsen, an architectural expert, explained that the site “perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the environmentally focused revolt culture that erupted in the state in the 1960s.” He said the fact that the Trainas “have opted to painstakingly restore and adapt themselves to this funky little building, with all its Waite idiosyncrasies literally built into its every nook, is frankly as unexpected as it is laudable.”