Visions of Seaside

Visions of Seaside: Foundation/Evolution/Imagination—Built and Unbuilt Architecture

By Dhiru A. Thadani, Foreword by Vincent Scully, Introduction by Paul Goldberger
New York City, Rizzoli 2013
608 pages, $75

Visions of Seaside Book CoverSeaside represents different things to different people. It’s an incredibly compelling small town that’s been luring design aficionados and fun seekers to the Florida Panhandle for more than three decades. But whether one comes to Seaside for its architectural icons, ground-breaking town plan, or white sandy beaches, the place continues to engage, entertain, and educate visitors to this holiday town and Mecca of New Urbanism.

Founded in 1981 by Robert and Daryl Davis on 80 acres of Gulf-front land that had been in the family since the 1940s, Seaside set the stage for return to traditional town planning and the yet-to-be-named New Urbanism movement. Seaside’s urban code and town plan (unusually innovative at the time) were designed by Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. As the utopian town was slowing becoming a reality, Seaside was already the subject of architectural discussions and academic polemics, as well popular lifestyle magazines.

4 Proposed Town Center

Seaside’s proposed Town Center.

Although Seaside has been featured in countless scholarly and popular publications over the years, Dhiru Thadani’s Visions of Seaside is the definitive tome on the history of this small town and a work of art in its own right. Weighing in at 608 pages, it’s not exactly light beach reading. It is, however, a worthy addition to any coffee table or library.
Visions of Seaside is filled with insightful essays and graced with literally thousands of drawings, current and historical photographs, and imaginative illustrations that offer a sweeping narrative of how Seaside came to be, including precise floor plans and elevations of iconic homes and civic structures, elaborate unbuilt schemes, romantic watercolor renderings, and grand ideas for the future of a small town along the Gulf.

A foreword by architectural historian Vincent Scully and introduction by critic Paul Goldberger are followed by essays by key players including Robert and Daryl Davis, Leon Krier, Robert A. M. Stern, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Andrés Duany.

The scope of Visions of Seaside is astonishing, addressing the evolution of the town plan and dissecting nearly every notable structure. The organization is brilliant, the text engaging, and illustrations a delight. This book is for anyone who has visited Seaside or ever wanted to. It promises to be a timeless source of information and inspiration.
Seaside was conceived as a “city of ideas” to serve as a model for a more beautiful and civil way to build and live. Visions of Seaside is surely a “book of ideas” in keeping with the best traditions of the original vision and realized town.—Lynne Nesmith

Images courtesy of Dhiru Thadani, FAIA.

Lynn Nesmith is former architecture editor of Southern Living and senior editor of Architecture. The author of Seaside Style and 30A Style, she lives just down the beach from Seaside in Seagrove, Fla.

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