Parallel Utopias: The Quest for Community

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Parallel Utopias: The Quest for Community
The Sea Ranch, California/Seaside, Florida
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1995
Written and Photographed by Richard Sexton
With contributing essays by William Turnbull Jr. and Ray Oldenburg
Book design by Mya Kramer Design
168 pages; over 180 photographs
ISBN: 0-8118-0547-6
Hardcover, $50 retail

Out of Print


Published in 1995, Parallel Utopias is a thematically ambitious book. This project focuses on two highly influential planned communities — The Sea Ranch, California, and Seaside, Florida. The Sea Ranch is noted for its contribution to the principle of ecological design. Seaside is the flagship community of the contemporary planning movement, New Urbanism. Parallel Utopias tells the story in words and pictures of both places. The point is not really to compare the two communities in a judgmental way , but to celebrate and elucidate each place for its individual design goals and community ideals. The respective stories of Sea Ranch and Seaside are framed by an introductory essay on the built environment of postwar America: its evolution, its assets and failures, and why Sea Ranch and Seaside are so different from it.

Richard Sexton’s photographs and text are complemented by essays from noted architect William Turnbull Jr. and urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg.


Parallel Utopias is a beautiful book of photographs documenting two visions of ideal community, developed a generation apart, set on pristine coastlines far away from the urban metropolis…this book provides us with positive images of some of the qualities that the great American city should contain, in particular access-by-proximity, human-scale architecture, and respect for the natural environment.” – Paul Okamoto, The Urban Ecologist, 1998 Number 1

Parallel Utopias raises a wide range of topics which are probably new and hopefully important to a lay audience. Meanwhile, some specialists may find its upbeat message a welcome relief from the narrative of loss that pervades so much of the current writing about cities and community.” – Andrew Cruse, Design Book Review, Winter 96/97

“Much has been written over the years about both Sea Ranch and Seaside, the philosophies that shaped them, the affluence of their residents, and the difficulty of applying the lessons of such second-home communities to year-round ones. Parallel Utopias captures much of that discussion. As such, the book is a welcome addition to the larger debate about community design now taking place.” – Peter Katz, Architectural Record, April 1996

Parallel Utopias is a wonderful book, with real personality…The most remarkable aspect, however, is the photography. Richard Sexton is a master!” – Andres Duany, urban planner and principal of DPZ Architects and Planners

Parallel Utopias gives a lucid overview of how our current suburban condition developed. It is highly recommended.” – Robert Davis, developer of Seaside, Florida; current Chair of the Congress for the New Urbanism