December 03: the too-perfect town

2012/12/03 § 4 Comments


On this day in 1981 ground was broken for Seaside, Florida.

Although not the very first twentieth-century town designed on traditional principles of planning, Seaside quickly became the poster child of New Urbanism for the United States and, for better or worse, maintains that position.  Starting in the 1980s, Seaside’s designers and developers worked in an era that benefitted from decades’ worth of dissatisfaction with Modernist vandalism to American cities and the growing warmth for the return of color and character in architectural design that is one of Post-Modernism’s best legacies.  At the core of Seaside’s planning principles were very old ideas: walkable, pedestrian-oriented streets and places, planned centers of community life, variety in kinds of buildings–both formally and functionally considered.

So idealized was Seaside, apparently, with its perfect Florida weather and candy-colored houses, it was chosen as the site of the fictional-fictional town that is the huge set of The Truman Show.  This designation was a double-edged sword: both acknowledging the ideal and pretty nature of the place, while at the same time suggesting it was dangerously divorced from the reality of life: a creepy nostalgia lay behind all those apparently welcoming white-washed porches.  Granted, critics might make that point, and also argue that New Urbanism is quaint architecture for very rich people, as there are observable trends  of very high-priced real estate associated with New Urbanist developments.  But, there is nothing inherently expensive about the architecture: it is a matter of supply and demand.  The quality of life found in interesting-looking, walkable communities is highly prized, and there is simply not enough of it to go around, thus the prices soar.  That’s not a problem of New Urbanism, but rather with the hoards of city planners, developers and architects who continue to build too much boring cookie-cutter suburban crap and soulless, high-density urban stonkers.

Image: Jim Carrey in The Truman Show


Tagged: , ,

§ 4 Responses to December 03: the too-perfect town

  • GREG RICHARD says:

    Seaside, and the 30A design coast for that matter, is unique and an anomaly. I love the place. Been there a couple times. It is eye candy for architects and planners. Everything is soooo designed. Did I say I love it? But it is not a small village of residents. It is a resort. The village I live in is comparable in population and maybe even per capita income but we don’t have jewelry shops, gift shops, art galleries and a grocery that charges 3 time the going rate. Why? because people actually live in my town and vacation in places like Seaside. Don’t know what all of this means in the scheme of new urbanism though. BEST, GMR

    • Richard says:

      Thank you Robert & Daryl Davis & happy anniversary Seaside. Additionally, I don’t think Modica charges 3x going rate. In fact, for the quality & convenience it’s under priced.

Clio loves comments! Please leave a reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading December 03: the too-perfect town at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.


%d bloggers like this: