CNU XIV: An Online Experience Almost as Amazing As Being There
With 1533 registered
attendees, the Providence Congress was CNU's largest gathering ever -- and
perhaps its most galvanizing as well.
As the Congress turned
14 in Providence and reached a new level of maturity and relevance, anyone who
thought this was a boutique design movement specializing only in quaint
small-town mainstreets had that idea turned on its ear.
CNU XIV: Developing
the New Urbanism was the first
Congress to focus heavily on what it takes to bring plans for compact walkable
development through to completion: the coordinated interaction of government
officials, the public, designers, financiers, and often multiple developers in
settings ranging from outlying new villages to dense downtowns.
No small feat, but that
wasn't all. As New Urbanism proves itself the only comprehensive contemporary
approach to community design and development, the Congress took today's
community building challenges head on – from addressing the staggering
evolving needs of Gulf Coast communities slammed by Katrina and Rita, to
serving the widespread need for affordable housing, to offering development
models tuned to an emerging era of tight oil supplies and greenhouse gas
accumulation that is exposing the vulnerability of development that requires an
automobile trip to reach every destination.
As they assembled the
talent and expertise to make real progress on these issues, the local
organizers of CNU XIV made a fortuitous decision to forego producing a
regional-themed publication and instead work with CNU on capturing the
assembled knowledge in a permanent online resource -- the multimedia toolkit
that you're about to experience and that we hope you will return to frequently
as you move forward in your work.
The Toolkit includes
audio and video from nearly 50 Congress sessions, a similar number of
slideshows, and reports from the correspondents who covered the Congress for
the online Daily NUws. If you have experienced the typical Congress desire to be
in two or more places at once (who hasn't?), the Toolkit is your wish
fulfilled. To get started, search the Congress schedule
for multimedia files or search by session type such
as council or urban lab.
CNU XIV's impressive
plenary addresses are well represented. There is high-quality video of Dan Solomon's
presentation on learning from the strains of Modernism
that acknowledge the past while envisioning the future – a speech that
kept attendees in their chairs well into the dinner hour and generated a flurry
of requests for recordings (requests we're pleased to oblige.) And along with
other highlights from the plenary
sessions including Andres Duany on New Urbanism at the
Tipping Point, CNU is privileged to provide a wealth of clips and materials
of this year's inaugural recipients of the Athena
Awards, which CNU
established to recognize those trailblazers of urbanism on whose shoulders we
stand. With his keynote
address, Christopher Alexander challenged new urbanists to change the
development processes that rob their work (along with most other contemporary
development) of soul and life. In the process, he also proved that his ideas
have the power to set off days of highly charged listserv discussion. And
fellow medal-recipient Léon Krier gave a nuanced but powerful appeal for
treating city and town building with humanity and respect.
The big ideas and
challenges are all in the Toolkit – urbanism's role in school reform
urbanism (and more
green urbanism) and
society with Jim Kunstler and Julian Darley; Mississippi
infill development. There's whistle-to-whistle coverage of the Sprawl Brawl
featuring Robert Bruegemann and Anthony Flint and the sessions hosted by New
Urbanism's forward-looking Next Generation.
And following this
year's theme, there is a storehouse of strategies from developers who are
earning reputations as placemakers, including advice on running the numbers,
mixed-use development, doing well by doing
good, and improving the quality of attractively priced production housing.
In other words, the Toolkit has tools!
As Boston architect
David Dixon told the Providence Journal on the eve of the Congress, "Twenty years ago, planners and
architects often worked in entirely separate spheres. Architects designed
single stand-alone buildings, while planners did roads, mass transit and other
public infrastructure. New Urbanism was the first attempt to put everything from
individual house lots to regional planning together into one, internally
consistent package." Enjoy the Toolkit; it's part of that package in