The New Urban Guild LLC is an agent for some of the best traditional architectural design talent available today. Its business model is similar to that of a sports agency or other talent agency. The Guild Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation chartered in the state of Florida. Its purpose is to provide education and other resources to assist in the design and construction of traditional urbanism and architecture.
The Early Days of the Guild
The Guild began, as so many great ideas do, as the brainchild of a single individual. Nathan Norris originally conceived of the Guild as a collection of great young talent assembled to develop house plans for Gorham's Bluff, an arts retreat high in the mountains of northern Alabama. Gorham's Bluff had just hired Steve Mouzon to re-plan the town some seven years after the original plan had been completed. Nathan dropped by Steve's office on a late spring day to present the idea of the Architects' Guild, as it was called in those days. Steve's response was "That's great, but you're missing a wonderful opportunity." Nathan has never been accustomed to missing opportunities, so he was curious. Steve continued. "If you're going to assemble some of the best young talent in the region for this task, why stop there? Because everyone in the Guild will believe in the principles of the Most-Loved Places, why stop at just doing plans for one development? Why not make this a polemical group with a point to prove?"
Many lunchtime and late-night conversations ensued at their usual downtown haunts. By summertime, the framework of the Guild was in place. Nathan sent out the original Architects' Guild invitations on August 7, 2001. By February 3, 2002, with no outside funding, the Gorham's Bluff Main Street Homes plan book had been self-published by the Guild.
The Providence Charrette
The next step was one that none of the original members ever anticipated. Steve had almost gone to Miami upon graduation in 1983 to interview with Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, (DPZ) the planners of Seaside, Florida and founders of the New Urbanism. Steve remained a staunch supporter of the principles of the New Urbanism, or Traditional Town Planning, over the years, focusing on local efforts such as newspaper editorials, etc. In February 2002, it was announced that DPZ was coming to town to design Providence, a new collection of neighborhoods on the west side of town. Steve instantly decided to donate a week of his time to the project.
Several days into the charrette, Steve presented the idea of the Guild to Andrés Duany. Andrés was delighted. He explained that "Until now, we have had two choices, which were either to hire a single great architect and have the architecture look like a project rather than a real place because it is all drawn by a single hand, or to hire many ordinary architects and get ordinary work. For the past fifty years, ordinary architecture has far too often been of regrettable quality."
The Next Years
The Guild worked with DPZ for the next two years, working to arrive at a system that delivered the quality of architecture DPZ was looking for. They tried many methods, finally developing one that worked early in 2004. The first modern Guild Architectural Charrette was held on Miami Beach in January 2004 to design houses for Alys Beach in the Florida panhandle. A dozen architects were brought in for several days, during which they produced a great number of designs that are now being built at Alys Beach. The Alys Beach charrette model was tested twice more during 2004, during which time it became obvious that a viable system had finally been developed. Today's Civic/Commercial Charrette, Custom Charrette, and Plan-Based Charrette are all based on the lessons of 2004.
The New Urban Guild LLC and the Guild Foundation were both incorporated in early 2005.
From the beginning, the intention of the Guild has been to assemble the best talent available in the United States and eventually in Europe. But because so many architectural issues are regional in nature, the Guild will one day coalesce into a series of regional guilds. Several other organizations such as the CNU and the ICA have used the same model, developing the national organization first and then creating regional chapters.