As I've mentioned, a few weeks ago I visited Seaside, Florida. It had been a longtime dream of mine since reading all of the media buzz in the early 90s and then later studying the master-planned community in architecture school. More recently it was the setting of the fantastic Jim Carrey movie "The Truman Show". Founded by Robert Davis on 80 acres along the Florida panhandle coastline inherited from his grandfather, the town became one of the first of many planned communities designed in "new urbanism" mode and certainly the most famous. The master plan was created by Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk of the Miami firm, Arquitectonica. Meant to evoke the seaside resort towns of the past, Seaside was built to a prescribed scale with a set of strict guidelines to build to for those who bought into the community. And buy they did, the settlement was a successful and spawned a movement that trickled world wide to varying degrees of success and quality.The first part of planning was walkability. One can walk from their cottage to the beach or the commercial center, the pool, tennis courts or church in a matter of minutes. Once you arrive in Seaside, there is no need to move your car. Besides, pedestrians have the right of way and you travel faster by foot, let alone being able to find parking.But the town is not urban but rather a small town of low scale. Houses, no matter their style (although most subscribe to a pseudo-victorian cottage style), must have a front porch and sit a certain distance from the street. Lot sizes are small to allow for walkability and so you are forced at once into this community. Following this, the houses are true cottages and although many of the later ones push this boundary and are larger than the originals, I think it safe to say these are all very small houses. Even the backs of the houses are open to pedestrian alleys between streets. Many of the houses have a guest cottage which face these alleys and so if you stay one in (as I did) this is your way home. Yes, the walkway is sand as we're just a block off the beach here, as is everything. All properties must also be bounded by a white picket fence. According to the guidelines though, no 2 may be alike on the same street. This ensures that the community has variety within the strict guidelines. The houses were built by the lot owner rather than by a single developer and by a number of different architects, so you can imagine the variety that exists architecturally.The town center is still in the works, as buyers build-up their lots, but there are a number of shops and restaurants as well as the usual amenities such as bathrooms, beach changing rooms, chuch, town hall and even a post office seen above (the most photographed building in Seaside). I loved this modern building on the main town square. Like all of the buildings in the center of town, there is commercial space on the ground level with offices or apartments above.Behind the town center is a charter school which makes the resort town feel alive year round. The panhandle, as I found out, is very different than Southern Florida; they have winter! This is a seasonal resort (think late spring through fall) and though the weather was warmer than in DC, lets just say I wasn't spending much time on the beach.Scenic coastal highway 30A separates the town from the beach by a short block which is naturally filled with the most impressive houses.The road sits 2 rows of houses back from the beach with one of the pedestrian alleys between. These houses follow a different planning guideline and because of the additional pedestrian traffic are more private than houses above the highway. Many are designed in a post modern Greek-revival style differing from the houses north of 30A.
I hope you will join me as I explore this town through a series of posts with my many many pictures and that you enjoy it half as much as I did!
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