Apr 16, 201404:24 PMPoint of View


The After-After Duany

The After-After Duany

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU)—the organization everyone in the architectural academy loves to hate—has settled on a new leader. The CNU announced today that Lynn Richards would succeed John Norquist, who served as president and CEO for the past 12 years. A former Loeb fellow at Harvard University, Richards comes to the CNU from the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Sustainable Communities, where she gained extensive public policy experience.  

Her appointment is an intriguing one that signals a continuing shift in tactics by the CNU, away from its early polemics. Norquist's appointment in 2002 was in some ways a conscious effort by the CNU to uncouple its identify from one of its charismatic and controversial founders, Andrés Duany. Norquist, the former four-term mayor of Milwaukee who famously tore down an inner city highway there, initiated his own campaign at the CNU called Highways Without a Future. Since then, he's traveled the country encouraging municipalities to follow Milwaukee's lead. While his efforts can't claim any outright victories yet, there are a number of cities currently considering teardowns. 

The CNU release touts Richards' ability to navigate policy regulations and codesthe unglamorous, in-the-trenches, heavy-lifting part of urban design that's often overlooked. In other words: the messy politics. It seems as if the CNU's vision for its future isn't about direction of the organization, but the implementation of its goals, and the results on the ground. 

Apr 17, 2014 07:53 am
 Posted by  H Dittmar

Lynn Richards appointment is a welcome one, and her skills and contacts will indeed further the difficult task of reforming development practice to allow walkable, green, mixed income and mixed use communities. But it is not a new thing for CNU for focus on implementation, as has been key ever since former Exec director Shelley Poticha began the collaboration with the US Green Building Council that led to LEED-Neighborhood and to the joint street design manual with the Institute for Transportation Engineers.

As CNU Chair from 2003-2008, I worked closely with John Norquist to finish these, and have enjoyed later watching his direct engagement with Fannie Mae on mixed use financing, with fire chiefs on street design and with State DOTs on freeway tear down. I suspect Lynn will continue this kind of nitty gritty work, while remaining true to the vision of the founders that good design is too important to leave to the starchitects and the trophy buildings.

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