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As practitioners, associates and friends of New Urbanism gather on Florida’s Gold Coast for our 20th Congress, we find a New World of challenges and opportunities before us. Our world, already beset with the challenges of peak oil, climate change, and wealth disparity, finds global economic crisis confronting us with the equivalent fury of tropical storms from old Florida lore. We step ashore facing worldwide adjustments in the financial, housing, retail, transportation, and energy markets. These storms have drastically changed how we do business in the 21st Century and are opening a “new world” of challenges and opportunities for the New Urbanism.
CNU 20 will provide an opportunity to help us confront these challenges and share interdisciplinary strategies to help us navigate through the storms. As in the past, the Congress is the ultimate venue for defining problem-solving solutions, using existing and emerging New Urbanist principles. The extraordinary economic upheaval of recent years has brought an end to the previous world of readily available capital and supercharged growth that fueled a “bigger is better” approach. The failings of this approach have created a vacuum in the world where people are now searching for an alternative paradigm. CNU 20 will focus on how New Urbanist practices, principles, and applications can fill this void and advance high quality urbanism through a more incremental, attainable, “small is beautiful” approach.
The New World theme and CNU 20’s South Florida location also provide a great opportunity to remember and celebrate our connection to the Spanish and European legacies in the planning and design of towns and cities in what they regarded as “the new world,” i.e., the Caribbean and the Americas. Nations in the central and southern portions of the western hemisphere are now struggling with rampant growth, poverty, and security concerns and are in need of locally contextual approaches to urban planning and design capable of generating high quality, sustainable urbanism that enlivens places and restores damaged, historic cities. CNU20 will include a special focus on this dynamic region of our global world.
The New World theme and Florida’s location also lead to pioneering developer Henry Flagler, who confronted a new, largely unsettled world in the late 1800s/early 1900s, as he laid track from Jacksonville to Key West. Flagler established a string of new towns, resorts, agricultural areas, industry, ports, and transportation, opening Florida to the world by establishing a gateway to Cuba, the Caribbean Basin, and beyond.
The New World theme inspires us to look back, seeking the wisdom and lessons from prior generations that contended with equally challenging circumstances, and reflect on more than two decades of New Urbanism in practice. At the same time, this year’s Congress will incorporate a proactive approach to defining and shaping an action-oriented agenda for the CNU and new urbanists moving forward.
Inspired by people’s hopes and aspirations for a better world, the 21st Century has already been labeled many things. The simple beauty of the New World theme says our program is not constrained or limited by labels, but is inclusive of topics most relevant to discuss and explore if the New Urbanism is to become a much stronger political, social, and physical force in the 21st Century. Come join us in West Palm Beach in 2012 and “be the change you want to see in the world.”