Charles Waldheim, Landscape Urbanist, Confirmed for CNU 19
The CNU 19 program lineup is taking shape. A particularly exciting recent development in the CNU 19 lineup is the confirmation that Charles Waldheim, director of Harvard’s Landscape Architecture program, and a founder of the Landscape Urbanism movement, will speak alongside CNU co-founder Andrés Duany.
In advancing Landscape Urbanism as an alternative to New Urbanism and related planning models, Waldheim concludes that the inroads new urbanists have made in revitalizing cities, retrofitting suburbia and making mixed-use neighborhoods more vibrant and walkable are of limited relevance. His influential new movement grows out of a "frustration" with New Urbanism and dominant planning models, a conviction that it's wrongheaded to organize places using familiar elements such as walkable streets and buildings lining the sidewalks. He asserts that it's not a broadly applicable strategy to try to build dense human settlements or to employ urban forms that proved themselves in the 19th century or earlier. He embraces the sprawl (he calls it horizontal development) that has characterized the suburban zones of cities for at least the past half century, saying it is unrealistic to expect to control it.
Waldheim has certainly gotten the attention of New Urbanists. At CNU 18, Andrés Duany gave a presentation about Landscape Urbanism which simultaneously praised its handling of the outer transect zones and site remediation, while criticizing the movement’s seeming lack of focus on urban form and notable disregard for the people part: how people live and how urban cities function.
At CNU 19, Waldheim and Duany will explore the unresolved tensions within Landscape Urbanism. How urban is the movement if it accepts the general functional patterns of sprawl? How environmental is it if it incorporates natural systems but leaves humans persisting in energy-wasting, high-emissions generating patterns of living? Certainly, the emerging standard for green neighborhood development -- as expressed in LEED-ND and in developments such as Kentlands or Milwaukee’s Beerline -- are based on new urbanist strategies incorporating density and walkability. Although LU employs cutting-edge strategies for the remediation of soil and the introduction of native plant species to sites, does LU leave human communities to function too inefficiently? How does LU propose to solve high emissions through driving dependence and spread-out single-family housing? What about the creation of polluted run-off from too many large surface parking lots? Can any urbanism with sprawl as its foundation be considered a truly ecological urbanism? How many LU designs would get to square one in qualifying for the holistic view of community in LEED-ND and other emerging green standards for human settlement?
At the same time, New Urbanists can potentially learn from the Landscape Urbanism especially where the demand simply doesn’t exist for more dense forms of development in transect zones 1 and 2. Also, as some cities shrink in the new post-recession economy, there is a need for new ways of thinking about human settlement. New Urbanism may find new ways to utilize low valued land in places like Detroit. If consolidation into walkable neighborhoods is the solution, what is to be done with the leftover space? Can Landscape Urbanists and New Urbanists work together for the good of society at large to develop innovative solutions to these perplexing problems?
Initially conceived of as a debate between Duany and Waldheim, the event has evolved‚ at the request of the two participants‚ into a two-part forum where Waldheim will present on Landscape Urbanism, followed by an interview by Duany. Last year Duany was adamant that New Urbanists and Landscape Architects have something to learn from one another, and there is certainly the possibility that the two will make headway on the cooperation front. That being said, Landscape Urbanism is in many ways directly at odds with the foundations of New Urbanism, and it is hard to see how the sprawl-embracing ideology of Waldheim and the New Urbanist prescription for dense, walkable urban form can be reconciled.
In any case, don’t miss this historic closing plenary event at CNU 19 June 1-4, 2011 in Madison, WI.
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