The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is a progressive planning and architecture organization began here in Florida in the early 1980s. I say progressive because its Charter starts as follows:
The Congress for the New Urbanism views disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and wilderness, and the erosion of society's built heritage as one interrelated community-building challenge.
Many architects and planners today scoff when the Congress for the New Urbanism is mentioned (especially right here in Florida, where their sensibility is so desperately needed), they associate the group with those quaint little new communities circa 1980, like Seaside, Florida which was popularized in The Truman Show. The focus of the CNU long ago turned away from quaint little new towns for the wealthy elite. Today, theyre major advocates of green urban and suburban infill; the conversion of dead malls and poorly designed suburbia, into places worth caring about. The recent winning video for the CNU 17 Video Contest demonstrates this contemporary focus:
Admittedly, there are other organizations able to assist with lighting the trail from get-rich-quick sprawl to infill. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is a recent entry after years of promoting object buildings by Starchitects (it turns out that context is important after all). The popular Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system is a step in the right direction but its still possible to create a platinum level building (their highest rating) that is completely surrounded by mind numbing sprawl. Until a walkable context becomes important (and mandatory) to LEED, the cost of commuting to one of these stellar buildings offsets any advantage they gain by being green and sustainable.
The CNU meeting will be held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Downtown St. Petersburg: 255 Beach Drive NE. See the event's page for meeting times.
This years title is Great Expectations! (even in tough times), How the current economic crisis can provide insight and opportunity for Florida and sustainable urbanism and the outline is as follows:
It is clear that expectations for the future, in terms of growth and prosperity, have dramatically changed from 2005 to 2009. In addition to the national economic turbulence, some legislative proposals in Florida could unwittingly diminish the progress of smart and rational growth in our state. The January 2010 CNU statewide meeting will address these issues and provide an optimistic perspective on these challenging times, including the latest ways to advance New Urbanist principles.