Stern, Scott Brown and Barnett Win CNU Athena Awards

Medal recognizes those who have laid the foundation for New Urbanism

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The new CNU tradition of presenting Athena Awards to pioneers who have laid the foundation for New Urbanism will continue at CNU XV in Philadelphia with cast-bronze medals going to Robert A.M. Stern, Denise Scott Brown, and Jonathan Barnett. The trio will join first-year recipients Christopher Alexander and Leon Krier as the urbanists “upon whose shoulders we stand,” as CNU board chair Hank Dittmar has described them.

The CNU board selects the award winners annually, recognizing their legacies and giving them an opportunity to enrich future generations of urbanists by sharing knowledge and insights in plenary addresses at the Congress. In Philadelphia, Barnett will appear on Friday evening, Stern on Saturday evening plenary, and Scott-Brown on Sunday morning.

Barnett’s seminal achievements include writing several of the first form-based codes ever while director of the Urban Design Group within New York City’s Planning Department under Mayor John Lindsay in the early 1970s, a breakthrough that helped introduce the planning profession to the idea that codes could generate positive outcomes rather than just prevent negative impacts on adjacent property. The director of the urban design program at the University of Pennsylvania and practicing designer at Wallace Roberts Todd, LLC in Philadelphia, Barnett “is an absolutely first-rate intellectual and first-rate practitioner,” says CNU co-founder Andrés Duany, who considers books by Barnett such as Urban Design as Public Policy and The Elusive City “the most legible and practical histories of urbanism that I know of.” Barnett’s influential projects include an urban design plan for the City of Omaha, a downtown waterfront plan in Nashville, reuse plans for former military facilities in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Myrtle Beach, SC, as well as recent work preparing for the emergence of mega regions in the United States and abroad.

Denise Scott Brown helped change history by challenging orthodox modernist thinking about architecture and urbanism in her urban design work as a partner of Venturi Scott Brown and Associates and in influential books such as Learning from Las Vegas (co-authored with her spouse Robert Venturi and business partner Steven Izenour), says CNU board member Ellen Dunham-Jones, director of the architecture program at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “It is her combination of degrees in both architecture and planning, her conviction about the importance of learning from existing conditions, and her devotion to the social implications of design that shifted attention solely from buildings towards urbanism, “ says Dunham-Jones. “While she does not agree with the wisdom of all new urbanist strategies, we can continue to learn from her ever-against-the-grain critiques and insightful eye.”

Robert A.M. Stern has proved influential in multiple capacities: author of distinguished histories, and dean of the architecture school at Yale, and leader of a prospering architectural practice that has helped reintroduce essential architectural traditions into a design culture that had lost its sense of history. “He is a model in many ways. He combines impeccable academic credentials with brilliant administration and first-rate design,” says Duany. “At Yale, he navigated the treacherous waters, making it possibly the only truly open-minded architecture school in the world. He’s also fostered a practice of excellence and groomed the next generation. These achievements and qualities are all too rare.”