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 vision of the award-winning architects who designed them. In the next several issues of The Seaside Times, we explore each pavilion’s unique features.
West Ruskin Street Beach Pavilion Architect: Michael McDonough
New York-based architect Michael McDonough believes that traditional design and modern design —nature and science — can be advantageously synthesized, as in the West Ruskin Street Beach Pavilion. He has published more than 80 articles and two books on architecture and design.
When Robert Davis asked him to design a pavilion, McDonough pulled ideas from his interest in Southern culture, specifically American Folk and Native American culture. Notable elements of Southern culture — quilting, lumber yards and the American Flag — played a part in the design as well.
“The screens are based on quilt patterns,” he says, noting the sailboat patterns on the street side and the windmill motive facing the water. “It’s all pretty much lumber yard materials and off-the-shelf connectors, along with metal roofing.” The original faded red, white and blue colors were a tribute to the American Flag.
McDonough says he hopes people look at the pavilion and study how it all works in a sophisticated, structural way. “I like for people to figure things out,” he says. While it appears that the screens are holding up the roof, it is the changing rooms in the center that act as hollow columns, which hold the roof up. “The screens don’t support the roof,” he explains. “They are designed to break away in a storm and fall away in one piece. It actually happened once as the result of a waterspout. So the screens did what they were supposed to do. There was no damage to them at all.” McDonough kept perspective in mind with the screens, with the roadside screen built to highway scale so it can be seen across the road. On beach side, the screen is pedestrian scale.
The trusses and prefab metal roof monitor at the top were put in place to encourage cool breezes. “There were a lot of little tricks put into building it,” he adds, “comfort and climate control. And we didn’t disturb turtles.”
As an architect who has worked with clients on projects since the 1970s, McDonough says one of the most important things to note about this project is the extraordinary amount of artistic freedom given to him by Robert Davis. “I cannot tell you how rare that is,” he says. “They say you are only as good as your client, and Davis is one of the best clients I’ve had. Robert was inspiring and exemplary.”