The quaint town portrayed in the popular 1998 movie “The Truman Show” is now a study destination for dozens of students from the UM School of Architecture.
Seaside, located on the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Panhandle, was conceived in the 1980s by the Miami firm owned by Architecture Dean Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and her husband, Andres Duany. It is considered one-of-a-kind and a prime example of the New Urbanism, a planning movement that promotes mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods.
New Urbanism is now part of the philosophy of the School of Architecture, which is why students and faculty drive 10 to 13 hours to see Seaside, usually during vacation breaks or at the beginning of the semester as part of a design studio experience.
“Seaside is like a bubble of an ideal community,” said fourth-year architecture student Catherine O’Sullivan. “It’s not the same to see things in photographs or videos than to actually experience it and go there.”
The last trip was during the January intersession while the Florida Congress for the New Urbanism was taking place. And Plater-Zyberk was there to provide some on-site insights.
“When you get to Seaside, there’s a sense of familiarity . . . it’s a summary of everything that is good,” said architecture professor Jaime Correa.
The resort town has become a frequent stop for many architectural programs from different institutions because of its context of building with an urban structure.
“Seaside is a traditional town not because it is old-fashioned, but it takes all of the concepts of the things that work and continues to move it forward,“ said professor Oscar Machado.
For most students, this trip has taught them various aspects of architecture, while also touching base on other fields of study.
Sophomore Isaac Stein, a resident of Seaside, was part of the group that went on the trip on January and despite that he was born and raised there, he believes that Seaside has a “weird mixture of art.”
The town has also been criticized by some, including Harvard professor Alex Krieger, as being “too perfect.” But O’Sullivan disagrees.
“I don’t think that Seaside is too perfect,” she said. “Seaside is rare and because of that, we think that it’s impossible for there to be such a town.”
Thania Potosme may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.