Andres Duany takes on the avant-garde establishment in this must-read piece on the history and impact of New Urbanism.
New urbanists have designed most of the US public housing and many of the high-profile regional plans in the last two decades, have completed plans for major cities, and have owned the most important project of all — reform of suburbia, Duany notes. New Urbanism's power is in its software and methods.
The following are Duany's opening paragraphs:
"The most debilitating aspect of this criticism is the hypersimplification — as if the New Urbanism were a rustic version of starchitect culture. The New Urbanism is in reality an expanding web of ideas, techniques, projects, and people. The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is an institution chartered 18 years ago with a budget, a board, and a staff. The New Urbanism coalesced through the 1980s around certain independent initiatives: the Pedestrian Pocket studies of Doug Kelbaugh and Peter Calthorpe, the antimodernist polemics of the Krier brothers and Colin Rowe, the typological rigor of Stefanos Polyzoides, the conservative housing of Urban Design Associates and Dan Solomon, the Americanism of Vincent Scully, and the emergence of Seaside as a physical artifact. The unifying impetus was the decline of CIAM (the 1928 organization that gave birth to the modern movement) into zoned suburban sprawl.
"The CNU was founded in 1993 by Andrés Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Polyzoides, Elizabeth Moule, Peter Calthorpe, and Dan Solomon. It was built on the chassis of CIAM — which we identified as the last design movement to have changed the course of urbanism. This was an early instance of the nonideological pragmatism that became the MO of the New Urbanism. From CIAM came the concept of a movement, rather than the individualized position-taking of the generation of 1935. Also from CIAM came the protocol of an elite meeting to formulate the principles that would allow it to become an open-membership organization limited only by a presumed agreement with the resulting 'Charter of the New Urbanism.'
"As the Charter makes clear, the New Urbanism projects at all scales, but its primary mission has been the reform of suburban sprawl, which has long been the most debilitating and neglected of America’s urban crises. This is not to say that New Urbanists have avoided the inner city. Our firm, DPZ, for example, has prepared effective urban plans of at least eight major urban cores. After all, the best way to discourage sprawl is to foster cities that people love. The long-serving president and CEO of the CNU is John Norquist, who was also the long-term mayor of Milwaukee and the author of the hard-to-beat-for-having-its-head-screwed-on-straight The Wealth of Cities. According to New Urban News, about half of New Urbanist projects (which number in the hundreds) have been infill."