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Gateways to the Beach - Tupelo Street Beach Pavilion

Posted on Mar 01, 2017 in Tupelo Street Beach Pavilion , Gateways to the Beach , March-April 2017

The Tupelo Street Beach Pavilion was the first of Seaside’s nine pavilions built. Photo courtesy the Seaside archives

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 continue to explore each pavilion’s unique features.

Tupelo Street Beach Pavilion Architect: Ernesto Buch

The Tupelo Street Beach Pavilion, designed by Ernesto Buch, was Seaside’s first public pavilion. Built of wood, the pavilion is of a simple, platonic geometry. “It is based on a cube,” Buch says. “In detailing and form, it is evocative of American wooden Palladian architecture, and thus it is part of a long vernacular tradition.”

Buch’s love of classical and traditional architecture and urbanism dates back to his childhood in Cuba and Miami. Throughout his 30-year career, Buch has worked on several projects in the fields of architecture and urbanism, including the Master Plan and Code for Seaside. Through this project, Buch became one of the earliest contributors to New Urbanism. Buch was the second town architect, and designed many houses and civic buildings for Seaside.

Buch received his formal education in architecture first as an undergraduate at Case Western Reserve University, from which he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, and then at the University of Miami, where he earned his Bachelor of Architecture. He went on to Harvard University and earned his Master of Architecture in Urban Design. His firm has offices in New Haven, Conn., Miami and the Dominican Republic. He specializes in classical and traditional architecture and urbanism and has been involved in several projects in the Dominican Republic, Miami and the Bahamas. The firm’s work has been published in various publications and has been given several awards.

Buch was part of Seaside’s night crew, a group of talented architects and town planners who held lively debates and sketching sessions into the wee hours. The group held a “charrette of summer” in 1983, during which the team spent a concentrated effort to make a town plan in a short period of time.

“During the charrette, Seaside town founder Robert Davis got the idea that each street should have pavilion,” Buch says. “Each pavilion would have a different design, which is really kind of fun.”

The pavilion was Buch’s first classical building. “Ernesto’s masterpiece in Seaside is the Tupelo Beach Pavilion,” Davis wrote when describing the town’s architects. “Placed over George’s Gorge, a path cut to the beach by generations of jeeps, the pavilion is a bridge, a gateway and a communal front porch for the neighborhood. Its image, a classical arch framing sea and sky, was used by Eastern Air Lines and the State’s tourism department to promote travel to Florida.”

One of the most notable icons in Seaside, the Tupelo Street pavilion became a model for future architects of Seaside to follow. “The pavilion was meant to be both a portal to the beach, as well as a place to view the scenery, a room with a view, a Serliana. The quintessential window frames the view of the gulf,” Buch says. “From the beach, the pavilion is perceived picturesquely along the dune scape.”

Buch says he naively put classical detailing in wood, while at the same time making the design vernacular. “Despite a certain naiveté, this was my first fully classical design, and my first building,” he explains. “I was surprised and delighted when it became the iconic symbol of Seaside. In those early days, it was photographed innumerable times, and was used in television publicity campaigns as well as magazine fashion spreads. I would rarely receive credit. Far from offended, I was flattered, for I felt I had designed a truly vernacular building. My good friend, Melanie Taylor, once quipped that I was the most famous anonymous architect in the country.”