Seaside towers rise to the occasion By Emma Kellum
In the early days of Seaside, town founder Robert Davis opted to break all acceptable beachside real estate rules of the day by conceiving a town that sat across the street from the gulf. He marked the shared beach access with pavilions, each structure a sort of architectural celebration of community. But Davis and the original town architectural team, including Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, also knew how prized a personal glimpse of the gulf would be to homeowners. And so the Seaside Urban Code was written to permit houses topped with towers.
Per code, no tower can obstruct the view of another home’s tower. In addition, each tower must be individually designed to avoid replication. This fits with everything else in Seaside — each house is required to have its own distinct look, even down to its own tailor-made picket fence.
A giant hat must be tipped to designer Deborah Berke. Not only did she design 17 houses in Seaside and one of the most notable gathering places in Seaside — Modica Market — but she also contributed the first residential tower. In 1983, Berke designed a home topped with the town’s first tower on 36 Tupelo Street. The home, named Giant’s Roost, features a pale blue tower trimmed in white.
I had the pleasure of touring a gem among Seaside towers designed by Charles Warren. Homeowner and fulltime Seaside resident Glenn Seawell goes into detail about the versatility of his tower. “It’s where I relax, have friends over — in fact, it used to be a big social gathering place,” he says. “Now, I use it for smaller events. My daughter was actually married up here at sunset.”
On one side, the view from the top shows the more traditional skyline that was originally envisioned for Seaside. From the other side, one can overlook Ruskin Place. The Seawell residence lies right on the axis of Seaside between the Seaside chapel and the flagpole. “The lights from the chapel are really beautiful at night,” Seawall adds.
Today, many towers jut upward from pastel houses nestled on the flat coastal plain, giving the town its identifiable skyline and a romantic feel. As hoped, Seaside’s towers offer gulf views to inland homes, including those more than a mile from the beachfront. By capturing views of turquoise water and white sand, the towers dramatically increase home values. This allows Seaside to function as a highly desirable investment opportunity — no private beach property necessary.
Beyond the financial value a tower brings to a Seaside home, it offers a spot of personal sanctuary in the sky. Seawell appreciates the design intent behind Seaside’s towers. “The design of the tower leads you in and invites you to a view of Ruskin Park,” he notes. “It’s private, but it’s unlike condominiums in that the porches offer a sense of community.” On the tower, it’s easy to catch a fairly consistent gulf breeze, so it can be enjoyed even at the height of Florida summer heat.
Whether equipped with a hot tub, a hammock, or a table and chairs, Seaside owners and visitors will tell you a tower provides an optimal vantage point for stargazing, catching a sunset, or taking in the salty breeze.
Towers may not be limited to solely private residents in the future. Several of the original plans for Seaside’s town square incorporated a public observation tower in the center of downtown that would be designed by León Krier. In 2004, the company Opticos, founded by architect Daniel Parolek, was hired by Seaside to create a master plan for several strategic designs. Part of this plan includes fulfilling the original vision of Central Square by beginning the construction of León Krier’s tower. If built, this tower would provide the ultimate view of Seaside and the emerald waters, which would be enough to leave anyone awestruck.