CNU XV Day 2: Follow the Congress as It Happens

Welcome to Philadelphia!

The 15th annual Congress for the New Urbanism officially kicked off on Thursday with a day of tours and sessions, then an opening plenary session with featured speaker Witold Rybczynski. For blog reports on Rybczynksi’s speech, go here and here.

Before Rybczynski, the noted Philadelphia author and design commentator, took the stage, attendees were treated to a special Philadelphia planning orientation and tribute to the much-admired Edmund Bacon, who served as executive director of the city’s Planning Commission for 21 years beginning in 1949. The tribute was especially moving, coming from his daughter, Elinor Bacon, a former under-secretary of HUD.

Part of the program was also reserved for the presentations of a new award,
the Driehaus Form-Based Codes Award by the Form-Based Codes Institute. The first winners: St. Lucie County, FL; Leander, TX; Gulfport, MS; and Farmer’s Branch, TX. Not many organizations make such a big deal about beautifully written and applied regulating plans, but it’s becoming increasingly clear – and was certainly evident by the enthusiastic reception for the award winners Thursday night – that getting codes right make it easier to get neighborhood design right. Brent Warr, mayor of Gulfport, MS, got a little extra applause when he received the prize for the SmartCode effort in his Hurricane Katrina-besieged city. “Give us a few months,” said the mayor, “and then come see us.”

The Thursday day-time sessions drew crowds to what have become the essential orientation courses for New Urbanism – New Urbanism 101 and New Urbanism 202 – where there can be focused discussions of issues especially targeted to design and planning practitioners. Within the NU 202 block, for instance, relating road design and other transportation matters to New Urbanist planning has taken on new importance with the rewriting of professional standards on urban thoroughfares. Read about the latest discussions here.

In the afternoon NU 202 session on “Details of New Urbanism: Curb to Cupola,” there was time to drill down to design components such as landscaping, signage, and alley details. Architect and New Urban Guild founder Steve Mouzon was among the veteran panelists in that session. “What we pretty much decided,” said Steve, “is that, for the purposes of getting the design right for the location, we should stop talking about style.” That should keep the architects busy for a while.

Blogger Michael Lewyn checked out the all-day “Leed for Neighborhood Development Working Session.” And he also went on the Girard Avenue Trolley Corridor Revitalization Tour and filed two-part reports here and here.

An afternoon attention-getter was an interactive “New Initiatives Forum” that allowed participants to self-organize workshops addressing issues to work on between Congresses. For more on that session, go here.

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