Doug Murray – Sonoma County Architect

Doug MurrayThe East Bay house I grew up in had a small deck in the front that was screened for privacy from the street by a five foot high wall. My brother and sisters and I would sleep outside there in the summers. It was amazing sleeping under the stars. It was like going on vacation without leaving home.

I spent part of my summers on a farm in the Central Valley and the other part at my grandparent’s cabin on Austin Creek a tributary of the Russian River. The cabin had a couple of outdoor spaces that my grandfather had added. One was an outdoor terrace, located between redwood trees, with a cabinet and kitchen sink overlooking the creek where we swam and boated. It was a wonderful experience to have family dinners outside there on the sun warmed tile terrace in the summer.

I started doing land surveying for my Father’s Civil Engineering Office when I was 16 years old. There I learned how to do topographic surveys. We also worked on track alignment for BART throughout the Bay Area.

In Junior College I became very interested in the writings of analytical psychologist Carl Jung.

“It’s amazing that the Chinese have an entire body of knowledge, centuries old, dealing with the placement and relationship of objects and the energy thus created”

I took a recess after junior college and rode a bicycle from San Rafael to Vancouver, Canada along coast highway 1; I generally slept outdoors under a poncho tied between a picnic table or fence and my bike. At Vancouver I put my bike on the train and crossed Canada to Quebec; then Peddled down to Philadelphia. As a result of this trip I learned to appreciate the beautiful environment we have on the West Coast.

I attended San Jose State and studied Art and Structural Engineering. I was surprised and delighted to find such cultural diversity in San Jose. I met my future wife in San Jose and moved to Santa Cruz, where she was living after graduating from UCSC.

Went to work for an Architect in Aptos, Ca. This office designed homes in the ocean side Development of Seascape. I did drafting and Structural Design. At this time the Title-24 energy efficiency requirements were instituted during Jerry Brown’s first Governorship. It was the first time for most West Coast Architects and Builders to use double glazed windows and doors.

After a few years I went to work for an Architect/ Development Office in downtown Santa Cruz. This architect was an excellent designer and draftsperson. At this office I began designing and learned more of the art of draftsmanship. Living not far from the Yacht Harbor I learned to sail in Monterey Bay, and got a certificate from O’Neil’s at the Yacht Harbor.

We had our daughter, Belen, at this point.

“Almost all of my projects have been designed to exceed, by a good margin the State Energy Standards.”

About this time Santa Cruz County began going through a drought and water shortages. Building Permits were issued on a quota system. To keep working full time I began commuting between Santa Cruz and Los Gatos and went to work with an Architect in Downtown Los Gatos. This was the relatively early years of the Dotcom era. It was an interesting office in that we all participated in the client meetings for the projects we were working on. These projects were in the Los Gatos and Saratoga Areas. The most memorable project I worked on was the street scape for a bank downtown. We use steel arbors on white concrete columns and steel trellises to create a little oasis of greenery on the otherwise unbroken line of build facades.

There was an Architect with this office who was knowledgeable about Eastern religious traditions. He inspired me to investigate along these lines. This quest was an extension of the ideas that I found so interesting in Jung’s writings.

I acquired enough apprenticeship experience at this time to take the Architectural License Exam; which I passed in 1986.

Not wanting to commute over the Santa Cruz Mountains, especially during the winters, my wife and I decided to move to Sonoma County. I got a couple of job offers, and went to work for two Architects on the coast; their office was literally on the coastal bluff, it was on a 25 foot wide piece of earth between Coast Highway 1 and the drop to the Pacific Ocean. We worked on New Homes and Additions and Remodels at The Sea Ranch and Bodega Harbour Development, and other projects in Sonoma and Marin Counties. The Sea Ranch Design Review process is probably the most intensive design review of any that I know of. It is actually a good process and helps to keep The Sea Ranch the unique community that it is. I worked with this office for 24 years. Maybe the influence I had on this office was in terms of increasing the energy efficiency of the projects we designed.

We had our son, Gavin, at this time.

I had some interactions with the Sonoma Mountain Zen Center which gave me a way to experience in practice the ideas of the writings I had been studying.

“I continue to take workshops on energy efficiency and sustainable design, wood construction, and wood structural design.”

I became interested in the practice of Feng Shui at this time and studied writings and attended classes with Prof. Lin Yun. It’s amazing that the Chinese have an entire body of knowledge, centuries old, dealing with the placement and relationship of objects and the energy thus created, while we in the west have been pretty much unaware that such considerations were even possible.

With my own projects I have often taken care of the whole process. I have done the topographic survey, the architectural design, the construction/ permit drawings, the structural design, the energy documentation, and the permit processing required by Sonoma County and other jurisdictions. Almost all of my projects have been designed to exceed, by a good margin the State Energy Standards. Even with the large amount of glass the homes often have to capture the ocean views and outdoor spaces.

I continue to take workshops on energy efficiency and sustainable design, wood construction, and wood structural design.

Experiencing the contrast between the bright hot sun of the Central Valley and the cool shade under the redwoods impressed on me our link with nature. Thus linking our environment with our buildings continues to be an important goal.

Personal History Summary:

  • Born in Sacramento, Ca. 1951
  • Grew up in San Francisco Bay Area
  • Rode bicycle along west coast from San Rafael, Ca. to Vancouver, Canada
  • Studied Art and Engineering at San Jose State University
  • Married since 1977; have two grown children
  • Worked with Architects in: Aptos, CA; Santa Cruz, CA. And Los Gatos, CA. to fulfill, what was then, a seven year apprenticeship requirement as part of the requirements for The State Architectural License.
  • Received Calif. State Architectural License 1986
  • Worked with Bodega Bay Architects- Bowler & Cook 1984-2002. Projects were located in Sonoma and Marin Counties, mostly along the coast.
  • Have had own office since 2002
  • Lived in Sonoma County for past 28 years