CNU Update

Waldheim/Duany dialogue CNU 19

Congress for the New Urbanism

Don’t miss the provocative discussion featuring Charles Waldheim and Andres Duany at CNU 19 in June 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. Charles Waldheim, professor and chair of Harvard’s Landscape Architecture program, and a founding member of the Landscape Urbanism movement, joins Andres Duany, co-founder of the Congress for New Urbanism in a discussion of the movement. For those of you sitting on the fence, this is a fantastic reason to attend CNU 19.

In advancing Landscape Urbanism as an alternative to New Urbanism and related planning models,Waldheim concludes that the achievements of New Urbanists in revitalizing cities, retrofitting suburbia, and making mixed-use neighborhoods more vibrant and walkable are of limited relevance. His new movement grows out of a “frustration” with New Urbanism and dominant planning models (Waldheim may be the first non-new urbanist to call NU dominant!), a conviction that it’s wrongheaded to organize places using familiar elements such as walkable streets and buildings lining sidewalks. He says that as human settlement continues to spread, it is impractical to build dense human settlements or to employ urban forms that proved themselves in the 19th century or earlier. Waldheim sees his movement being realistic by choosing to accommodate sprawl (he calls it horizontal development).

Waldheim has certainly gotten the attention of New Urbanists. At CNU 18, Andres Duany gave a presentation about Landscape Urbanism which simultaneously praised its handling of the outer transect zones and things like site remediation, while criticizing the movement’s seeming lack of consideration for urban areas and notable disregard for how people live and how cities function.

Exploring tensions

At CNU 19, Waldheim and Duany will explore the unresolved tensions between New Urbanism and Landscape Urbanism. How urban is Landscape Urbanism if it accepts the dysfunctional patterns of sprawl? How environmentally-friendly can it be if it incorporates natural systems but leaves humans persisting in energy-consumptive patterns of living? Although Landscape Urbanism employs cutting-edge strategies for the remediation of soil and the introduction of native plant species, does it neglect neighborhood and community design?

At the same time New Urbanists can learn from Landscape Urbanism. CNU, with a few notable exceptions like Laurie Olin, has not interacted as extensively with landscape architects as it has with planners, architects, developers, and traffic engineers. Landscape architecture is gaining importance and recognition it hasn’t had since the days of Olmsted and Nolen. As some cities shrink in the post-recession economy, a call has arisen for new ways of thinking about human settlement. For example, can or should parts of Detroit revert to farm land? Is urban agriculture a serious solution for distressed cities? Can Landscape Urbanists and New Urbanists work together to create a revitalization strategy for Detroit that adds value to the lives of its citizens?

Initially conceived of as a debate between Duany and Waldheim, the event has evolved‚ at the request of the two participants‚ into a two-part forum where Waldheim will present on Landscape Urbanism, followed by an interview by Duany. Last year Duany was adamant that New Urbanists and Landscape Architects have something to learn from one another, and there is certainly the possibility that the two will reach consensus on some issues. Or maybe not?

In any case, don’t miss this historic closing plenary event at CNU 19 June 1-4, 2011 in Madison, WI. Speakers will be Will Allen, William Cronon, and Earl Blumenauer.