Rollins Hosts Congress for New Urbanism

January 28, 2008

On January 24 and 25 Rollins College hosted the fourth annual Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) Florida Statewide Meeting. More than 300 new urbanism experts from across the state gathered to discuss global climate change issues in the Bush Auditorium.

According to Bruce Stephenson, Rollins environmental studies professor and new urbanism expert, the new urbanism movement has invigorated city planning by invoking the tradition of American civic design to solve the conundrum of suburban sprawl. This “Florida-grown movement” originated with Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk’s plan for Seaside.

Seaside was designed as an alternative to the auto-dependent subdivision. Its compact form placed buildings closer together and focused attention on public spaces, not individual homes. In return, the town was imminently walkable, and a subtle aesthetic charm arose from the merging of urban and natural landscapes. Seaside became the most studied town-planning project in the nation, and as the problems accompanying suburban sprawl intensified, the new urbanism moved from novelty to policy.

“Today more than 2,000 developments utilize principles modeled after Seaside,” Stephenson said. “Florida has the most new urbanist projects (near 500) in the United States, and this trend is apt to continue in response to population pressure. The New Urbanism, however, extends beyond the realm of bricks and mortar. Its proponents formed the Congress of the New Urbanism (CNU) in 1993, with the goal of fomenting a ‘cultural shift’ by channeling development into new constructs based on a classic formula.”

The new urbanist intent is perhaps best summarized by the words impressed on the John Nolen medal—the Florida CNU Chapter’s highest award: “cities are to display the beauty of human work and noble human life.”

“Such respect for civic ideals and the human form inspired the golden age of Athens and Florence and, if new urbanists are correct, these attributes are an antidote to suburban sprawl,” Stephenson said.

Events of Interest Included:

• Wednesday, January 23 – Doug Farr, author of Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature and the President of Farr Associates, presented an optional short course on “Sustainable Urbanism & LEED-ND.”

• Thursday, January 24 at 10:45 a.m. – Anthony Wayne King, with Carbon-Climate Simulation Group and Oak Ridge National Laboratory talked on “Global Climate Change.”

• Thursday, January 24 at 1 p.m. – A panel including Tommy Boroughs, chairman of the Florida Energy Commission, Stephen Adams, lead staff for Governor’s Interim Climate and Energy Action Plan, and Susan Glickman, Southern Regional Director of The Climate Group discussed State of Florida Initiatives.

• Thursday, January 24 at 7 p.m. – Tom Pelham, secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs gave the keynote speech.

• Friday, January 25 at 11:45 a.m. – Geoff Anderson, director of Smart Growth America and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture and partner in the renowned design firm DPZ provided closing remarks.

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