As a frequent traveler, I find myself smiling when others talk of Boston’s history. Not even 400 years old. A drop in times bucket in comparison to the likes of Rome, Athens, or Alexandria, but Seaside, Florida – founded in 1981, and Rosemary Beach Florida – 1995, clearly win for fewest pages in the history books. It’s ironic then, that this community was based on a Pre-WWII concept of development, which is dubbed New Urbanism.
This master planning model is based on a few concepts, first it must be an environmentally friendly, transit oriented – designed for the pedestrian as well as the car. They should be diverse in use and population, and they should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions. COMMUNITY. A simpler time and place. A place that celebrates local history, climate, and ecology. I feel as if I am breathing in the salt air, and becoming calmer, just talking about it.
Seaside, the brainchild of Robert S. Davis, who inherited 80 acres of land on the Northwest shore of Florida from his grandfather. Together, he and his wife, and Architects – Duany Platner-Zyberk & Co, toured the South, and created the plan for the community. Community, and not a town, as it is not incorporated. A crafty little loophole that allowed the developers to create their own zoning! Et voila, 423 homes, 12 restaurants, 40 plus shops and galleries, and later, their own schools – the first charter school in the state, their own church and post office – arguably the most photographed post office in the states, designed by Davis himself.
The houses designed in the Victorian, Neo Classical, Modern, Postmodern, and Deconstructivism styles have lovely porches from which to watch the world go by – no front lawns – just natural plantings. They are painted in pastels and are placed side by side in neat little rows or clusters. It’s lovely.
I wonder if New Urbanism is synonymous for Utopia – it felt pretty perfect. So perfect in fact I wondered if my cupcake, flower, and design store all in one was just around the corner. I didn’t see it but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.