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It's All Part of the Plan

The 158 acres of Alys Beach are nestled along the Emerald Coast of Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico, and comprise the third generation new urbanist town in the panhandle master planned by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ). The town's dominant architectural language finds its roots and inspiration in the style of Bermuda architecture and its typology in the courtyards of Antigua, Guatemala. The Bermuda style is characterized by uncomplicated, whitewashed volumes of masonry and stucco, versatile and sculptural in its massing and restrained in its use of ornamentation. This early design decision by DPZ had great appeal and, together with the use of one color and material, white stuccoed masonry helps unify the architecture into a simple, harmonious and coherent streetscape.

Image courtesy Duany Plater Zyberk & Co.

Three residential house types are being developed: courtyard houses, villas and compounds. The courtyard house is the predominant type. Built to the edges of its lot, it is organized around a private, central courtyard, with attached outdoor galleries, loggias, fountains and pools. The villa is freestanding on its lot with yards all around; and the compound, also detached, is composed of multiple, smaller, pavilion buildings joined together by loggias, porches and continuous perimeter garden walls.

The developer for the project, Ebsco Industries, added a skilled town builder, Wave Construction, to its core team early on to set the tone and control the quality of construction. Therefore, one of the unique advantages we have had as town architects over the past two-and-a-half years is to work closely with Wave on all of the buildings built so far. We have collaborated closely to develop a palette of details with fixed standards, such as the concrete tile roof system; a fixed library of doors and windows, regulated by type and by lite proportion; mandating gas lights on photocell by one manufacturer, Bevelo, at all entryways; and steel-troweled stucco finish at all exterior walls. In many ways, developing these methods and techniques has allowed us to pare down the endless variety of solutions that can be applied toward any particular design element; this has contributed to a more serene and unified architectural composition.

Image courtesy Duany Plater Zyberk & Co.

Another opportunity we have been afforded is that Alys Beach has been the client for all the houses so far. This means we have commissioned designs and have reviewed and critiqued them as both the owner and the town architects. This has given us the advantage of exerting greater control and leverage with the architects we work with in helping shape and mold not only their individual designs, but those of the streets as a whole. The disadvantage is that we have to provide programming for all the houses and make sure that all plans are buildable, as any problems that arise on site are ours to resolve.

Image courtesy Duany Plater Zyberk & Co.

Great effort is made to strictly regulate and compose the front facades, but we are more liberal with the design of interior courtyards not visible from the public way, as well as with the rear elevations, which need to accommodate many of the buildings' services.

Over the past two to three years, the primary focus at Alys Beach has been developing and building the residential types and the management of the overall infrastructure. Now we are venturing into the design and programming of our town center and multi-family buildings, with a number of talented architects who will undoubtedly reinforce the strong design vision for Alys Beach.

Marieanne Khoury-Vogt and Erik Vogt head the Office of the Town Architect at Alys Beach, Fla. ( and are charged with guiding the development of the town in accordance with its founding architectural and urban vision.