Civic Institutions

By Diane Dorney
Executive Director, The Seaside Institute

Premises used by organizations considered to support the common good and, therefore, accorded special treatment within the [town]. Civic uses include educational, cultural, social, service, and religious not-for-profit organizations. Existing and potential civic organizations should have sites reserved within every traditional neighborhood development even if their advent is in the distant future. Communities develop such institutions with the reserved civic sites acting as a reminder and an incentive.

“The Lexicon of the New Urbanism,” Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company

For hundreds of years, civic institutions and the spaces around them were the most cherished and vital places in cities and towns. Considered the cornerstone of a culture and society, the churches, town hall, schools and arts venues were given the most honorable and accessible locations. This came to an end with the advent of Euclidean zoning, when civic institutions became isolated, stand-alone structures surrounded by a sea of parking in hard to reach places accessible only by car.

The innovative town plan for Seaside calls for a return to the former practice of placing its civic sites in the middle of the town. Reserved and restricted for civic use only, some of these sites have yet to be built out completely; however, a solid inventory of civic buildings is already in place for this relatively young town. These institutions include a post office, school, chapel and building for the town’s nonprofit organizations.

Several of Seaside’s civic buildings are located in the town Lyceum, a large horseshoe-shaped space, which is only partially completed. Intended as a center for learning and the arts, the Lyceum is modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s plan for the University of Virginia and links various schools, lecture halls and meeting rooms around a green.

The Seaside Neighborhood School jump-started the Lyceum plan and now occupies three large buildings there. In 2012, the Seaside Institute designed and built an Academic Village, which was placed on the southwest side of the Lyceum green. Here, 7 small cottages surround a large courtyard where students, faculty, artists and seminar attendees can stay and gather while studying and working in Seaside. Adjacent to the Academic Village, a two-story Assembly Hall was built to provide classroom and lecture spaces.

Civic Institutions in Seaside