Seaside Examined

Author: School of Architecture

The School of Architecture hosted the conference “Seaside At 30: Lessons from the First New Urbanist Community and the Future of Traditional Town Building” Sept. 29-Oct. 1. Seaside, Florida is an unincorporated master-planned community on the panhandle between Panama City Beach and Destin. 

The town has become the topic of lectures in architectural schools and housing-industry magazines, and attracts design professionals from all over the world. Founder and developer Robert Davis inherited from his grandfather the land that is now Seaside, 80 acres along the coastline that stood stagnant until 1981. He combined a conservative business plan and progressive social plan with the architectural forces of Andrés Duany and Léon Krier to create a town that, Davis says, “celebrates the luxury of simplicity.” What they developed was radical and challenging, but ultimately earned the trio an important place in architectural and urban planning history.

The conference examined the successes and failures of Seaside through the reflections of its architects, planners and builders. The experts addressed this seminal work in the history of urban design and the ongoing influence of Seaside to the New Urbanism movement. 

The Seaside Plan and Code were developed as alternatives to typical, sprawling communities. The plan set out to design the kind of place that had been overlooked in contemporary American town planning, the kind of community we all wish we could be from, says Duany. The form-based code allowed the community to grow and evolve with input from a variety of clients and designers, a central approach for a sustainable community. The code became a major basis for the Congress for New Urbanism, which Duany co-founded, promoting walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions.

Other conference speakers included Dean Michael Lykoudis, the School’s Graduate Studies Director Prof. Phil Bess, Architects Ernesto Buch, Jorge and Luis Trelles, Victoria Casasco, Teofilo Victoria, Douglas Duany, Braulio Casas ’94, ’96, Marianne Cusato ’97, Scott Merrill, Alex Gorlin, Nathan Norris, Robert Orr, Dhiru Thadani, Mike Watkins and Eliza Harris, Diane Dorney, and filmmaker Jillian Tucker.

The conference, organized by architecture librarian Jennifer Parker and Prof. Samantha Salden with the assistance of fifth-year Katie Springstead, coincided with the launch of the the Seaside Research Portal, an online resource for students and enthusiasts of architecture, urban design, planning and real estate. The portal features maps, plans and images in a variety of media through a collaboration between the Hesburgh Libraries and the School of Architecture.