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Merit Award -- Analysis & Planning

WaterColor Landscape Master Plan
WaterColor, Walton County, Florida

Susan Nelson-Warren Byrd Landscape Architects

Warren Byrd
Principal, Susan Nelson-Warren Byrd Landscape Architects
408 Park Street
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Tel: 434-984-1358
Fax: 434-984-4158

Statement of Purpose, Role of the Landscape Architect, and Community Context: Watercolor is a planned town under construction on 490 acres in the Panhandle of Florida. It is situated narrowly between intensely bright, blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the south and the dark tannic waters of a freshwater lake to the north and west. The town is located in a remarkable area of environmental contrasts; hence the significance of the name WaterColor. To the east the town borders and is in fact intended to be continuous with the existing town of Seaside.

The Landscape Architect joined the WaterColor master plan team that included an architecture urban design firm and an engineering firm. Our charge was to articulate a landscape master plan for the first phase of the community construction and to develop a landscape philosophy and formal precedents to guide the landscape design of the entire community. Though the Urban Designers laid out the initial framework for the community, our work included full schematic design of the entire network of public spaces including parks, streets, stormwater management systems, recreation areas, and plazas as well as the co- authoring of a Pattern Book of residential codes and guidelines.

There was no single planning and analysis document produced. As a part of the master plan team we were hired and worked directly with the client and presented our work to them in a series of meetings in verbal, graphic and in written form. A sampling of those presentations is illustrated in the slides enclosed with this submittal. A brief landscape philosophy text is also included.

Uniqueness of the Project, and Significance: Our goal in the Landscape Master Plan was to set a new standard of community integration with its ecosystem. The intention was for the community to be an exemplar in the expression of the ethos of this particular place. The intent of the design team was to create a walkable community with accessible public spaces that respond to the specific natural and cultural characteristics of the region. The existing landscape, given the unusual proximity of Gulf and lake, is remarkably rich and varied. Our position throughout the design process and our most important contribution to the project was to preserve, highlight, and celebrate this unique indigenous landscape while creating a habitable place for people.

We sought to meld the density, strong civic culture, and distinct physical order of good town design with an unprecedented embrace of its wild indigenous landscape and its ecology. Here art, culture, and human habitation could coexist with a vital wild landscape and its processes. In this scheme, a the network of public spaces, from the scale of the street section to large scale parks, would be designed as gardens to inhabit, explore, celebrate, and understand the evolving nature of this place. Our strategies to achieve this melding of the civic and the wild included:

Highlighting the effect of water and its process in the landscape through the design of stormwater systems and revealed hydrology in civic spaces.

  • Understanding the site as comprised of distinct ecological zones and developing design strategies to augment, reveal and celebrate those different zones
  • Reinforcing the native plant communities through the almost exclusive use of native plants and planting strategies based on ecological zones and the regime of water and its availability within the site.
  • Abstracting existent landforms through selective preservation and grading.
  • Preservation, to the greatest extent possible, of the existent wild landscape and its specific plant communities at key moments and to specifically highlight them by contrast through the selective use of the precise geometries and constructs of civic design.

Client Statement: The Landscape Architect was retained early in the planning process to conceive the landscape ethic and aesthetic which would define "the look" WaterColor's built landscape was to have. The planners established that the site's unique and rare vegetation made WaterColor a special place. Consequently, their master landscape plan for Phase 1 utilized only a palette of plants indigenous to the site. The firm also authored the landscape portion of the WaterColor Pattern Book, the document that guides homeowners for residential landscaping and promotes the overriding landscape ethic.

2002 Award Winners
Press Releases
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