All roads lead to the beach

  • Published December 2012

In Alys Beach, Florida, time stands peacefully still. Bright blue skies are the backdrop for the crisp, brilliant, white walls of the community's architecture, inspired by the buildings of Bermuda and Antigua, Guatemala. Here, on Florida's west coast, the focus on relaxed rejuvenation blends sustainability, community and beautifully simple harmony.



All roads lead to the beach

The award-winning architecture of the buildings in Alys Beach has its roots in the master planning of new urbanism pioneer Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ). Designed for walkability, interaction and environmental-efficiency, the roads and paths of this 158-acre luxury-lifestyle community do lead to the white sand beaches, and azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and to a number of parks, and dining and gathering places.

DPZ's architectural vision for Alys Beach are inspired by the courtyard houses found in Antigua, Guatemala, with the architecture of Bermuda.

It's a distinctive architecture, and very fresh in this area," says Marieanne Khoury-Vogt, one of Alys Beach's two town architects, along with, husband, Erik Vogt. The pair founded Khoury & Vogt Architects.

The white walls and roofs of Alys Beach make an expansive canvas where dimension, and bold color create the community's vivaciousness. On columns, brackets and balcony railings, splashes of vivid color infuse rich character. Distinguished rooflines with all manner of arches, angles, and pyramidal and rounded shapes, create an undulating rhythm.

"With architecture inspired by Bermuda, our construction and architectural palette is relatively limited, in that we deal mostly with block. Even our roofs are concrete," Khoury-Vogt notes, adding that building envelopes are constructed to high-safety standards. "We look for ornaments to help soften that look, from brick mold around the window, to exposed rafter ends on the underside of the roof, to shutters. All of these elements help soften the architecture and make it more visually appealing when somebody's walking down the street.

"The shutters we specify, Atlantic Premium Shutters, complement our architecture very nicely. The functionality and architectural correctness of the shutters is extremely key, and their design is an integral part of the expression of our Bermuda-inspired design."

"A top benefit for us is the shutters' fiberglass construction. The oldest ones we have are five years old-they look brand new," Khoury-Vogt says.

"They have a great look, they weather well in this corrosive, salty-air environment, and they don't have to be stripped, primed and repainted every x-number of years."

While the majority of the residences in Alys Beach are attached courtyard homes, other residences are villas and compounds.

"The courtyards are a unique feature of this project," she notes. "They become secondary or tertiary rooms to the house, where you have public rooms that can open up onto courtyards that often have pools and fountains. It becomes a wonderful, private space to enjoy." On occasion, shutters are also used within courtyards, where a window opens onto the courtyard, and the homeowner wants that window to have the ability for privacy.

Wherever they are installed, Khoury-Vogt appreciates the architectural correctness and full functionality of the shutters. "We see so many shutters applied in houses where they are mis-used, and you can very plainly see where the shutters will not span the whole opening when they're in the closed position. It was very important for us that the shutters' architectural correctness be met. It is an integral part of the design."

Khoury & Vogt had not previously used Atlantic Shutters, "On this project, we worked with a number of architects who have used Atlantic," Khoury-Vogt notes.

"We've had an excellent experience. From the installation on down, it's been seamless and really pleasant. And there's been no difficulty, which is a great thing to eliminate in architecture."