For its Mal Paso project in Big Sur, Studio Schicketanz built four interconnected pavillions into the hillside.
Be it a new home or a historic renovation, Mary Ann Schicketanz is ensuring the Monterey Peninsula’s architectural legacy.
The Monterey Peninsula is a microcosm of California’s rich architectural history. There are meticulously preserved adobes and Victorians, masterworks by George Washington Smith and Frank Lloyd Wright, and more recent designs by Jerrold E. Lomax, César Pelli and Wallace Cunningham. But perhaps no one more than Austria-born, Carmel-based architect Mary Ann Schicketanz sees how they all fit together in a most unique way. “The Peninsula is a strange place,” she says plainly. “It’s been a testing ground for new architecture, but there’s little of it,” she explains, noting cities like Palm Springs with larger concentrations of “forward-thinking” developments. “Henry Hill did a whole body of work in Carmel and Mickey Muennig was in Big Sur, but here it’s more about the individual people who do the progressive work.” She, too, is one of them.
Mary Ann Schicketanz.
Schicketanz’s studio, located in the Barnyard, accepts projects across the globe but has lately concentrated on local efforts. “The real estate market is booming—we’ve got a lot going on right now,” she says. After restoring Henry Hill’s own Carmel house, she began renovating a Mike Mills-designed home. (The architect, known for experimental structures, once quipped, “My client is nature”—a sentiment that unites every architect named on this page.) But renovations, which include smaller remodels too, are just one aspect of her practice. She is currently working on myriad contemporary homes in her signature style: structures that sit gently on the land, be it Big Sur (where she raised her children, prior to moving to downtown Carmel), the grassy hills of Carmel Valley or the redwoods of Palo Colorado Canyon. “We work on such unbelievable properties that we encourage clients to keep sites the way they are,” she continues. “I like site-specific work, and how we integrate into the landscape differentiates our firm. We look left and right. Our work is influenced by what’s already there.” Hers is a full-service firm as well, with interior designers to craft a cohesive whole.
A Carmel residence by Studio Schicketanz is influenced by the Central Coast’s agricultural architecture.
“The demand we put on ourselves for good, sustainable design is high, and we maintain it from concept to completion,” she explains. “Few firms put a team in place from the get-go, and our designers work with the architect right out of the gate.” To help realize her vision, Schicketanz relies on an intentionally diverse team. “There were hardly any women in my profession when I started, and not being American, I have compassion for others coming here. Diversity shapes a better, richer project,” she says, adding that she is eager to again travel with her staff to international events like Salone del Mobile. “It’s so important to get out and see what’s happening,” she adds.
“The demand we put on ourselves for good, sustainable design is high, and we maintain it from concept to completion.”–MARY ANN SCHICKETANZ
The firm’s Mal Paso project features floor-to-ceiling windows that bring the outside in.
In the meantime, Schicketanz is focused on immediate projects and staying true to her passion for the environment, be it drumming up support for 5-Acre Farm, a new Alice Waters-inspired educational project in Salinas, or hiking Soberanes Canyon Trail on Sundays. “I work 24/7 and keeping momentum going is important,” she says. And just as it did for her architect forebears, it’s the Peninsula’s vibrant landscape that provides endless inspiration.