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Gateways to the Beach - The Seaside Pavilion

Posted on Jan 01, 2017 in The Seaside Pavilion , Gateways to the Beach , January–February 2017

The Seaside Pavilion, designed and built by Eric Watson, is made using traditional carpentry methods, producing an elegant result. Photo by Jack Gardner

The gateways to the beach are objects of pleasure by Wendy O. Dixon

When it was first conceived, part of the Seaside’s town design was to have a democratic sharing of the beach. The beach pavilions, dotted along the south side of each of Seaside’s streets, provide a gateway to the beach, as well as a protected area for the dune system. Each pavilion is different from the others, reflecting the unique visions of the award-winning architects who designed them. In the next several issues of The Seaside Times, we explore each pavilion’s unique features.

Seaside Pavilion Architect: Eric Watson

Studying and drawing the new houses built in his neighborhood during the booming suburban south of the 1970s, Eric Watson developed a fascination for architecture from an early age. In 1988, after completing his architectural training with a Master of Architecture degree from the Yale School of Architecture, Watson apprenticed in the craft of designing high-end traditional houses in New York City and South Florida.

Watson has been published in books, magazines, newspapers and journals, and has lectured on his work. He is a two-time Palladio Award recipient, and a 2016 Addision Mizner Award recipient. He’s a member of the Institute of Classical Architecture, Congress for The New Urbanism, American Institute of Architects, The New Urban Guild, The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, and is a registered architect in Florida and Georgia.

As the New Urbanism movement was in its infancy in the mid 1980s, Watson was a graduate student studying under Seaside’s town planners, architects Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. “It was a new idea being taught in the studio,” he recalls, “an extraordinary experience.”

At the time, Seaside founder Robert Davis was hiring young architects to work on development projects in Seaside, as a way to jumpstart their careers by getting relatively simple structures built. When Watson opened his office, Davis hired Watson to design the Seaside pavilion.

The pavilion, located adjacent to Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant, was designed as a civic structure, where people could sit and watch the gulf views, eat a picnic lunch or enjoy a romantic moment. With its frontage parallel to gulf, the pavilion draws inspiration from the Greek Stoa, a classical building type featuring open entryways on both ends of its linear form with a gable roof supported by classical columns.

“The construction is intended to be a simple wood structure that any average skilled carpenter could build,” he says. “Though the design is a classically inspired structure, it is built with common, readily available materials. The wood elements are simple in shape and form, configured with traditional carpentry methods. The bracketed eaves and exposed roof structure elegantly express the structure. The square post timbers, gradually taper upwards, suggesting the base, shaft, and capital divisions of a classical column.”

Initially, Watson anticipated a temporary period of working in Seaside of about six months, but after several private Seaside commissions, he has remained in the 30A area working on the designs of many residential projects in the area and throughout Florida. His practice has become well known for the distinctive houses he has designed in Seaside, Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, WaterColor and WaterSound.

“Whenever I’m in Seaside, I always stop by the pavilion to see how people are using it,” Watson says. “I enjoy seeing people eating there, sitting on the steps enjoying the gulf view, and the occasional wedding. It’s a welcoming pavilion, greeting you to enjoy Seaside, the Gulf of Mexico and perhaps a bit of architecture.”