The Congress for the New Urbanism’s annual convergence of giganto ideas and fine-grained pragmatism wrapped Saturday night with a party in a bar. The four days in West Palm Beach, Florida, marked the 20th anniversary of such gatherings, most of which also involved spill-over debates in venues with liquor licenses.
As usual, the CNU20 agenda was packed with passion and ambition, with a smidgeon of apocalyptic visioning to dampen out-of-control hopefulness. So what’s on the minds of the NU designers, planners and fellow travelers these days?
PlaceShakers gets put on ice this week as we, together with most of the urbanists we know, head to West Palm Beach, Florida, for CNU 20: The New World, this year’s installment of the annual Congress for the New Urbanism.
Will you be there?
As summarized by the CNU, “The New World confronts the challenges of peak oil, climate change, and growing wealth disparity, along with worldwide adjustments in the financial, housing, retail, transportation, and energy markets. Taken collectively, these challenges are drastically changing how we do business in the 21st Century, and opening new opportunities for the New Urbanism.”
This comes on the heels of last year’s Congress, where Next Generation urbanists brought fresh ideas and approaches to the wet blanket malaise of the sagging economy. Scott Doyon wrote about some of them in advance of the gathering while Howard Blackson followed up with a post-game analysis.
There’s no reason to believe this renewed momentum won’t continue to grow in West Palm Beach. Interested in connecting while we’re there? Leave a message here in the comments or flag us down in the hall.
PlaceShakers returns next Monday.
There hasn’t been a New Urbanist Council gathering for a while. Which is why a lot of pent-up anxiety — and hope — found release in Council sessions in Montgomery, Alabama, October 14-16.
These regionally organized Councils are intended to grapple with topics that should be on the table for annual Congress for the New Urbanism meetings but require give-and-take from a smaller group to better focus issues. So some 50 or so folks came to Montgomery to critique recent ideas and projects and to wrestle with propositions to position New Urbanism for the New Normal.
The irony is unavoidable. Interest in Smart Growth and New Urbanist topics has never been higher. Check out this May 2 column in the Washington Post; or David Brooks’ opinion piece in the New York Times from May 4. Yet the economic downturn has sucked the energy out of innovative projects in both private and public sectors. Lots of will, less way. At least for the moment.
And this is the moment in which the 17th national gathering of the Congress for the New Urbanism takes place. CNU 17 begins June 10 in Denver. Early registration ends today.
Before the bottom dropped out of the economy, CNU attendees were expected to be talking a lot about greening the movement. Now, the hot topics will be about adapting to new realities.
While the downturn may seem like a reason to skip this year’s gathering, it may be the best reason for scraping together the resources to get to Denver. If ever there was a time to share great ideas, this is that time.
Already the energy is producing cool stuff, particularly the award-winning video that makes the convincing argument that cul de sacs spell the end of civilization as we know it. Here it is:
We’ll see you there. If you have time, check out the discussion I’m moderating at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 13. It’s an invitation to “Embrace the Convergence” between the goals of creating compact, walkable comunnities and strategies for addressing public health, environmental, and demographic challenges. On the panel: EPA’s Tim Torma, the CDC’s Dee Merriam, and former AARP staffer Michael O’Neal.
– Ben Brown