Traditional Building Portfolio
Palladio Awards

Project: Lake Marilyn, Somerset Bridge and Seagarden Walk, Alys Beach, FL

Architect: Khoury & Vogt Architects, Alys Beach, FL; Marieanne Khoury, AIA, and Erik Vogt, AIA, partners in charge

General Contractor: BCL/Alys Beach Construction, Alys Beach, FL

Landscape Architect: Khoury & Vogt Architects, Alys Beach, FL; Kendall Horne, Alys Beach, FL

 

 

Awards

Public Spaces: Parks, Plazas, Gardens, Streetscapes

Winner: Khoury & Vogt Architects

A Walk in the Sun

By Lynne Lavelle

From the moment Miami, FL-based Duany, Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) completed the master plan for Alys Beach, FL, in 2003, expectations for this resort town were extraordinarily high. Its high profile New Urbanist predecessors Seaside, Rosemary Beach and WaterColor had set the bar in terms of beauty, walkability and sustainability, and Alys' site – 158 acres on the last available beachfront property on the Panhandle, along highway 30A – had the potential to surpass them all.

As Town Architects for Alys Beach, Khoury & Vogt Architects (KVA) has overseen its development for the past seven years. The results have garnered three Palladio Awards: for the town's first amenity, the Fonville Press (See Traditional Building, June 2008); for the luxurious leisure complex Caliza Pool (See Traditional Building, June 2009); and most recently, for Lake Marilyn, Somerset Bridge and Seagarden Walk.

The project is the first built pedestrian street and landscape at Alys Beach, and runs just over a quarter mile from south to north. Almost 25,000 sq. ft. of paved and landscaped space, with courtyards, landscape furniture, irrigation, plantings, lighting and built-in elements create smooth transitions between the various elements at play: urban and rural; solid and void; and public and private. "We started construction on 16 homes – eight on either side of a pedestrian path – as soon as the sales center at Alys Beach broke ground," says Marieanne Khoury, AIA, partner in charge. "And the idea was to complete that street as soon as the architecture was relatively in place so that one could have a sense of the whole as a space. These frontages formed a continuous street wall, and we looked at the ways in which the courtyards and facades welcomed people in and where we could enhance."

A dozen architects, including KVA, composed these early elevations in keeping with the strict urban, architectural, landscape and sustainability codes that govern construction at Alys Beach. Besides the physical benefits to the town, such as continuity of palette and architectural coherence, the system instills confidence in existing and prospective homeowners and tenants. "It is quite rigorous, but it creates a level of comfort and predictability for people who are thinking about investing here," says Khoury. "They know that they will be held to a series of standards, but also that everyone who follows them will be held to the same too."

As a departure from the pure functionality of many pedestrian streets, the architects envisioned a linear room or gallery, furnished with paving, lighting, and "gifts to the street" such as fountains, benches and stoops. The walk begins where the first two houses form an urban plaza surrounded by Sylvester Palms, urns, climbing vines and planters. Walking north, the space becomes narrower, as intended by DPZ's master planning for both solid and open streetscapes, before opening up to the first green park. "That park is at the intersection of a north to south and an east to west axis," says Khoury. "We were able to respond to site-specific conditions; we knew that one of the houses had a prominent entrance, and a great room that presents itself to the green, and we were able to mark the entrance to that house and align it with an axis through the green."

Upon entering the next transect zone to the north, the street gives way to a broad walk bordered by landscape swales, and informal native plantings that blend into the scrub. To reflect the more detached nature of these houses ("all the houses, even though they are at this point 2,000 ft. north of the Gulf, will have their view of the Gulf protected in perpetuity," adds Khoury), the landscape paving is seeded with dichondra groundcover and the plant materials change. "We have oak scrub and pine, rosemary and muhly grass," says Khoury. "We looked for ways to complement what would be naturally found in this area. It becomes more picturesque – trees come out of the ground as opposed to having been planted in urns, and new plantings blend in with the existing palette."

At its final leg, the walk opens up to Lake Marilyn, a manmade lake and woodland preserve. Three different species of blueberries can be found around the lake, grown without pesticides for safe seasonal picking. They recall the series of edibles planted at various points along the walk: a sage, parsley and basil soup garden; "mojito alley's" lemon and mint; and "daiquiri row's" strawberry and banana plants. A tower that nods to the simple gabled houses of the town marks a vehicular bridge that spans the lake. Below, a pedestrian bridge connects to an east-west path that traverses the town.

The pre-cast concrete bridge was supplied by Contech Bridge Solutions of Santa Rosa Beach, FL, and the Florida caprock paving was supplied by Capstone Industries of Okeechobee, FL. Ubiquitous urns were supplied by Anamese of Welsh, LA, Elegant Earth of Birmingham, AL, Longshadow of Pomona, IL, Lunaform of West Sullivan, ME, and Tuscan Imports of Florence, SC. Other key suppliers included Dominican Republic-based Marmotech (Dominican shellstone); Groundworks of Boynton Beach, FL (Medjool palms); Fine Crafts and Imports of Camarillo, CA (copper fountain bowl and hanging lightshade).

This third Palladio award marks another critical step in the evolution of Alys Beach, and the continued success of the New Urbanist movement.  

 

 

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