Dan Parolek

Opticos Design, Inc.

1285 Gilman Street
Berkeley, CA 94706


Dan is an architect and urbanist whose passion is creating and revitalizing sustainable, walkable urban places, and designing buildings that reinforce them. Born in the small rural community of Columbus, Nebraska, where he frequently rode his bike downtown to visit the movie theatre, hardware store, and dime store, he developed his passion for small towns, historic main streets, and traditional architecture at a young age. He feels his experiences living in rural and urban communities enable him to understand how different communities function physically and socially.

He is at the forefront of the practice of Form-Based Coding, a revolutionary alternative to zoning regulations which has proven to be highly effective in encouraging and incentivizing more sustainable development patterns. As coauthor of the first comprehensive book on this method, Form-Based Codes: A Guide for Planners, Urban Designers, Municipalities, and Developers (Wiley 2008), he produced what has been called “the definitive handbook on the subject”.

Dan is a founding board member of the Form-Based Codes Institute and the founding principal of Opticos Design, Inc., a firm that applies the principles of sustainability at regional, city, and building scales. He also currently serves as the co-director of the Congress for New Urbanism’s Sustainability Initiative.

In his time with Opticos, he has continually proven to be a leading thinker in urban design and architecture, as demonstrated by his design lead on four winning projects and two finalists in international design competitions. These award-winning proposals range from a sustainable, regional growth alternative for California’s Central Valley to a revitalization strategy for a student-dominated community near UC Santa Barbara to a green, affordable housing project in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Dan has worked alongside today’s leading practitioners, including Stefanos Polyzoides, Leon Krier, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Andrés Duany, and Donlyn Lyndon. Prior to founding Opticos, he worked with Robert A.M. Stern in New York City on the design and implementation of a Federal Courthouse in West Virginia, the renovation of Anaheim’s baseball stadium, the Darden School of Business Library at the University of Virginia, and custom homes for the likes of Michael Eisner and Jon Bon Jovi.

As a speaker, Dan has appeared frequently at national conferences, lecturing on such topics as Smart Growth and New Urbanism, Form-Based Codes and regulatory reform, and the role of architecture in creating community. He regularly speaks at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, the American Planning Association, and the Congress for New Urbanism’s National Conferences, and has taught at the Local Governments Commission’s workshops on Form-Based Codes.

Dan currently lives and works in Berkeley, California, where he is an active member of the Westbrae neighborhood. He is an avid biker, a supporter of community businesses, and an advocate of local, organic foods.

© New Urban Guild 2018