CNU 19 Theme, City and Tracks

What is CNU 19?

Drawing on the close relationship Madison has with its agricultural neighbors, CNU 19 will build on the theme of “Growing Local”. The conference will explore linkages that urban communities have with local food production, the food economy and the infrastructure that has developed around this symbiosis. It’s not just about growing food though. The conference will extend the “Growing Local” theme to include the nurturing of non-agricultural local economies and local connections — from Madison’s burgeoning bicycle industry and bike culture to its commitment to community involvement and participation, and pursuit of growth that reinforces a distinct sense of place. The region’s balance of vibrant urban life, rural charm, and natural beauty make Madison an ideal backdrop for CNU 19. Confirmed speakers include author and urban historian William Cronon, Trek CEO John Burke, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, among others.

Why Madison?

In 1911 America’s first urban planner, John Nolen, called Madison a “model city.” The region has precious natural resources including four lakes and the Kettle Moraine forest. The farm country that surrounds Madison has many rural hamlets that are designed efficiently along traditional neighborhood design standards. They embody the concepts of new urbanism on a small scale. While most of these villages were built to serve the agricultural industry, they also have become an important part of the growing tourism industry — especially bicycling tourism. These efficient town centers and main streets provide an aestheic that attracts tourists throughout the Midwest. Madison’s natural beauty and rural assets are only part of the story though. The urban center is packed with culture, dining, and a vibrant city life. Madison’s balance of urban and rural life creates an engaging and stimulating context for considering models for in tune with an age that will demand and reward more sustainable, efficient and livable regional growth.

Program Tracks

Agriculture and Urbanism:
Concerns about food safety and a desire to be more aware of our linkage to the land as well as the strong desire for fresh, flavorful food have given rise to a local food movement. Madison’s restaurants are famous for their devotion to serving locally grown food. How do we preserve productive farmland in rural landscapes? How do we strengthen mid-sized cities in agricultural contexts? What do we do at the edge? How can we build the symbiosis between rural production and urban markets? What does local food production add to the urban economy? What is the linkage between local food production and climate change (does local food production really mean a reduction in CO2?) Can we draw a transect from food source to table in Madison that clearly shows the linkages between our rural farm production and urban life?

Bikability and Transportation:
Is bicycle friendliness an indicator of New Urbanism? What is the relationship between bicycle commuting and New Urbanism? How does neighborhood design influence bikability? Can bicycling become a significant mode share in commuting in northern U.S. cities as it is Amsterdam? What does it mean to “build for bikability?” How does the bicycle infrastructure (paths, lanes, etc.) influence real estate values? How does bicycling fit into a truly multi-modal transportation system. What is the relationship between transportation infrastructure (including bicycling) and the fiscal health of a community? Are rail systems in bicycling incompatible? What is the role of rail in mid-sized metropolis?

Architecture and Place Making:
Frank Lloyd Wright has a strong influence on the architecture of Madison, yet he is well known for his disdain for the urban form. What impact did he have on the city of Madison in terms of planning and architecture? How has the Prairie Style created a sense of place in Madison? How do we design for new urbanism? What are the best examples of buildings that are part of the urban fabric (Overture Center, Monona Terrace) as opposed to suburban office parks? What impact did John Nolen have on the urban design of Madison? What impact does architecture have on place-making? What makes a public space an active space? What is the city government role in creating active and successful public places?

Water and energy are critical to the success of all parts of the transect, each of which manages them in different ways. As localities complete their green house gas audits, many learn that their biggest use of energy is the treatment and pumping of potable, waste and stormwater. The sustainable generation and use for water and energy is directly connected to our ability to move transportation networks from oil to alternative source electricity and our ability to obtain the water necessary to support densification. Just as the Sustainable Madison program is exploring how water and energy will impact the City’s future, so all parts of the transect are developing appropriate solutions.

Implementing New Urbanism: Design and Economics:
Madison is a medium sized city with typical suburbs. However, the region is comprised of many rural hamlets with prosperous, traditional Main Streets. What is the economic relationship between cities and hamlets? How do we preserve the economic vitality of these villages? What is the economic importance of rural hamlets in the digital age? Is it possible for rural hamlets to be sustainable communities? What kinds of jobs are compatible with this paradigm? Does the workforce of a mid-size city differ from the big city or small town workforce? How has new development incorporated the principles of new urbanism across the transect – and does it work? Is a mid-sized metropolis better suited for the implementation of the principles of new urbanism? Do mid-sized cities provide a better quality of life than large cities? What is the best place to raise a kid?

Outside the US, the principles of the Congress for the New Urbanism are not a choice but a moral imperative for survival. Most countries do not subsidize the standard of living for their population, and citizens have to pay the real cost for energy. Hence principles that promote sustainable urbanism over sprawl are welcomed as common sense. The International session track will highlights the groundbreaking work new urbanist are doing in every continents, and illuminate the adaptation and transformation of CNU’s principles to fit local conditions and norms. In addition this track will examine cultural differences in the use of public and private space as it relates to urban form.