Robert Davis, Andréas Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, DPZ
Rectangle: 1 to 3.7 overall
3 Greens: 58 ft by 76 ft, 76 ft by 198 ft, 53 ft by 90 ft
Av. height: 40 ft
Width Enclosure: 1 to 3
Length Enclosure: 1 to 11 (overall)
Andréas Duany’s pick for his favorite square from amongst his own work is the entirely unique Ruskin Place at Seaside, Florida. Seaside from my view is one of the most extraordinary land developments of the last century – in fact one of the most extraordinary developments of all time. Beginning around 1981, Andreas and Lizz’s firm, DPZ, led the design team, working for a near perfect patron, Robert Davis, and deeply influenced by the theoretical work of Léon Krier. The land plan contains many pieces of formal open space in numerous sizes and shapes. Ruskin Place and its associated De Bici Park form part of the central axis of the development.
The overall open space ensemble is composed of three small outdoor rooms immediately abutting along the north-south axis. Because of the landscape plan, they are each quite distinct. The green dimensions are 58 ft by 76 ft, 76 ft by 198 ft and 53 ft by 90 ft. Since the average height is 40 feet in the southern zone, the width of 120 ft (37m) creates an enclosure ratio of 1:3, whereas the overall length of 439 (134 m) feet creates a rough enclosure ratio of 1:11. It is very hard to judge because the side conditions change as one moves northward and the overall assemblage terminates in a beautiful chapel designed by Scott Merrill, winner of the 2004 AIA award.
It is worth repeating some comments on Ruskin by Robert Davis that not only reflect his critique of Ruskin, but also the importance Davis placed on the London example: “It is…not essential that every building or every house be individually designed and built. One of the things that I might have done differently in seaside is in Ruskin Place. Though the individually designed and built houses create a beautiful neighborhood, they were
expensive to build – perhaps more expensive even than single-family houses. There is an opportunity that we might have taken to emulate the work of Thomas Cubitt and his contemporaries. The rapid buildout of Georgian London, using production building techniques and technologies, produced the most memorable and valuable residential districts or neighborhoods on the planet. The squares, circuses and crescents of Mayfair and Belgravia, made up of a hundred or more identical row houses surrounding each beautiful square, are wonderful urban places, and could be built again today. Such places
could be cost competitive with tract houses, which must be decked out with fripperies to create curb appeal, and equipped with wildly expensive baths and kitchens to make them saleable. In Mayfair and Belgracia, and in Georgetown in Washington and in Pacific Heights in San Francisco, buyers pay a premium to be in a great neighborhood and to live on a splendid street.”