CNU XVI - Wednesday Plenary: Warnings and Honors

Austin Mayor Will Wynn has a problem standing still, in real life and on the issue of climate change. Wynn gave the keynote address at Wednesday evening’s CNU XVI plenary, warning the crowd in a manner that would make Al Gore proud of the reality of climate change and the dangers he sees it posing to his home state. He also spoke at length about the steps he and Austin are taking to implement what he called “climate protection” on a local level.

Flanked by giant video screens on which he projected images of hurricanes, charts showing everything from percent reduction in June through August soil moisture to infectious diseases vectors to per-person carbon emissions, Wynn, Austin’s 50th mayor, made the case for global warming. He then spoke about Austin’s Climate Protection Plan, the city’s five-pronged approach to leading the fight against climate change.

Wynn, who was first elected in 2003 and two years ago won more than 78% of the vote in a re-election landslide, said the goal is to arm Austin with the most energy efficient building codes in the nation. The plan targets both new construction and existing structures, which is important given that the existing building stock will still be here in 25 years.

Wynn said New Urbanism’s mixed-use and mixed-density approach is the fundamental answer to climate change, since it lowers vehicle miles driven and reduces sprawl. Having showed several charts that indicated the United States leads the world in carbon emissions, Wynn said that will change. He quoted Winston Churchill saying, “One can always count on the United States to do the right thing … after all other options have been exhausted.”

Honored during the plenary were three architects who didn’t wait to exhaust other options before embracing urbanism. Boone Powell, president of Ford Powell & Carson Architects and Planners Inc. in San Antonio, Texas, gave a tribute to the late O’Neil Ford, whom he called one of the first modernists in the United States. He recalled that Ford once said he admired the Greek Islands for their buildings, adding that they showed “constraint, but variety.”

Arthur W. Andersson, president of Andersson-Wise Architects in Austin, paid tribute to the late Charles Moore, remarking on how many firms started by Moore gave rise to still other firms. Moore called buildings “repositories of human energy,” Andersson said.

And CNU presented Sinclair Black, principal of Black + Vernooy Architecture and Urban Design in Austin, with the Athena Award, given to those who have pioneered and helped lay the groundwork for New Urbanism concepts.

Other Athena Award winners will be honored later in the week—Allan Jacobs at the Friday evening plenary and the Prince of Wales, who will accept via a videotaped message to be played at the Saturday morning plenary.

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Strong start

Great to see the live -- or nearly live -- blogging start from Austin. Thanks for a great report, Chris.

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