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Seaside Map

Seaside, Florida

Andres Duany & Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk Architects, Inc.
1023 Southwest 25th Avenue
Miami, Florida 33135
tel: (305) 644-1023
fax: (305) 644-1021

Seaside, Florida is an 80-acre community development along the Florida coast heralded as the first, and to date most successful, example of a technique known as New Urbanism or Traditional Neighborhood Development.  This influential movement among architects and urban planners encourages the return of nineteenth-century town-planning principles as an antidote to urban sprawl.

Created in 1981 by husband and wife architectural team Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, the development is built on a "neighborhood" scale and is designed to foster a sense of community.  The streets are all interconnected, creating a network that eliminates "collector" routes and reduces congestion.  Walkways crisscross the development to encourage walking and biking, while narrow streets serve to reduce traffic speed.  By keeping the number of parking lots in the community to a minimum, parallel street parking is encouraged, providing pedestrians a buffer between themselves and traffic.  To further this sense of "place" along the streets, building fronts are a uniform distance from the curb and all streets are tree-lined.

The most important features of this development are the ones that promote interaction among the community's residents.  Mandatory porches are set close enough to walkways to enable porch sitters and passersby to communicate without raising their voices.  The community has a discernible center, creating a common gathering place, and necessities -- stores, schools, post office -- are located within a five-minute walk of each dwelling.  (Five minutes is the time it takes the average person to walk a quarter mile.)  Community zoning provides for a mix of residential structures, ensuring that the community can provide homes to everyone, including the young, older, rich and poor.

The history of Seaside began in 1979, when developer Robert S. Davis inherited the oceanfront land.  Not wanting to create yet another sprawling ocean community, Davis, his wife Daryl, Duany and Plater-Zyberk toured communities like Grayton Beach and Key West, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia to find out what made those places structurally and socially appealing.  By combining the best features of each city, the plan for Seaside was born.

"We didn't have to invent a thing," says Duany.  "It's all been done."

Currently, Seaside is about 85% developed.  When completed, Seaside will contain 350 houses and 300 other dwellings, including apartments and hotels.  The town's projected population of 2,000 compares in size to a typical American small town or city neighborhood from the 1920's or 1930's, as does its mixture of uses.

Seaside's principal buildings are a school, a town hall, open air market, tennis club, tented amphitheater and post office.

Program Highlights

Features of Seaside

  • The Seaside plan was designed to optimize waterfront access and views for all of the town's residents, not just those with beach front home sites.
  • The community's porch-lined streets and walkways all lead to the beach or town center.
  • Seaside's design places an emphasis on the town's public spaces, which range from its main square to the pedestrian-only footpaths at the centers of blocks.
  • Considerable architectural variety exists at Seaside, with designs spanning styles such as Victorian, Neoclassical, Cracker, Modern, Postmodern and Deconstuctivist.
  • A network of sand walkways cuts through the middles of blocks, enabling one to walk comfortably to the beach in bare feet.
  • The majority of the buildings on the beach are public.
  • The town's market area uses shipping containers for construction.  Their industrial character is softened by the addition of gable roofs, wooden columns and fabric canopies.
  • Fences must be of a different style than all the others on the block.  Front porches are set back about 16 feet behind the fences so that those having conversations with passersby would not have to raise their voices.
  • The streets offer pedestrians the feeling of being in a public room.  This is accomplished by keeping the streets narrow and having buildings with uniform fronts.
Principles of Traditional Neighborhood Development

Communities like Seaside that are built on the Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) model feature many of the following:

  • Instead of the traditional development model in which residential and commercial zones are typically separated (thus encouraging the growth of transportation infrastructure), the TND model integrates development.  All structures fan out from a town center, which is often a square or green, and sometimes a busy or memorable street intersection.
  • Shops and offices are located at the edge of the neighborhood, and the shops are sufficiently varied to supply the weekly needs of a household. A convenience store is the most important among them.
  • Elementary schools are located within one mile of all residences so that children can walk to school.
  • Small playgrounds, ideally within one-eighth of a mile from all dwellings, dot the landscape.
  • The streets are laid out in a network, so that there are alternative routes to most destinations.
  • Streets do not end in cul de sacs.
  • Buildings at the neighborhood center are placed close to the street. This creates a strong sense of place.
Benefits of Traditional Neighborhood Development
  • By bringing most of the activities of daily living into walking distance, everyone (especially the elderly and the young) gains independence of movement.
  • By reducing the number and length of automobile trips, traffic congestion is minimized, the expenses of road construction are limited and air pollution is reduced.
  • By providing streets and squares of comfortable scale with defined spatial quality, neighbors can come to know each other and to watch over their collective security.
  • By providing appropriate building concentrations at easy walking distances from transit stops, public transit becomes a viable alternative to the automobile.
Charrette Model
  • Seaside was designed using the Charrette model, in which everyone involved in the project -- architects, planners, engineers, environmental consultants, CAD operators, the client, local public officials and interested citizens -- convenes for a concentrated one-week period to discuss developmental features.  This model allows for the participation of everyone who is interested in the making of a development, whether they represent the interests of the client, the regulators or the general public.
For more information
Peter Katz, The New Urbanism: Toward an Architecture of Community, McGraw-Hill (New York: 1993) 
Philip Langdon, A Better Place to Live: Reshaping the American Suburb, HarperPerennial (New York: 1995)

Vital Statistics

Program Management/Partnerships: Seaside, Florida was developed by Robert S. Davis and designed by Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk.

Budget: Please contact the program directly for budget information.

Community Served: The residents of Seaside and urban planners, developers and architects who pursue the community benefits of New Urbanism.

Measures of Success:

  • The concepts have won over West Palm Beach Mayor Nancy Graham, among others. She has become a student of New Urbanism and has followed the writings of Duany and Plater-Zyberk.
  • Property values increased ten-fold in Seaside between 1981 and 1991.
  • Disney's Celebration Community in Central Florida is based upon the Seaside model.
  • Seaside was recognized in 1990 by Time Magazine as the "Best of the Decade" in design.
  • Seaside has been featured in U.S. News and World Report, Smithsonian, Travel & Leisure, People and The Atlantic Monthly.
  • Seaside has been featured in numerous television productions, including a piece airing on Prince Charles's BBC television show.
  • Published: November 1997

    Success stories designed by Mark W. Nowak

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