CNU is Burning

This post by David Rau on the TradArch listserv triggered the largest outburst of posts seen in months… 173 to date, and counting:


David Rau

I've seen the big tent and it's not pretty.

It was upsetting to discover at CNU in Buffalo that New Urbanism has been divorced from Traditional Architecture. Kaput, the marriage is over. When did I miss that? 

Depressingly, CNU22 is almost identical to a ULI conference. And SCUP has more hard core traditionals roaming around. 

Apparently, it is now officially JUST FINE to fill traditional town plans with ugly, looming, blocky, undefined modernist forms, so long as there's some retail at the sidewalk and a park nearby (OK, a LEED rating is plus). Infill buildings now can (should?) contrast in material, color, fenestration - you name it - as long as it maxes-out the site. "Healing landscapes" (read: "landscape urbanism") can be surrounded by bland, random, scaleless healthcare architecture.  And let's talk about "Makeshops" and "Millennials" but keep your trap shut about cornices and columns.

I attended many seminars...scant words about traditionalism, let alone neoclassicism (or, gawd, Classicism). The plenaries were led by politicos working with, yes, traditional urban plans but these were all filled out with charmless "clunky architecture." Or, more generally, something worse. 

Kenny Craft gave one of the very few (only?) talks I saw virulently attacking modernism and espousing traditionalism on the building scale (he held the stage for a scant 7 or so minutes); thank you Kenny for standing up against "Mediocritecture" (and coining that term). 

But Jeff Speck half-loaded the annual awards jury with modernists, and...surprise...the winners were predominantly modern in their architecture (RAMSA's incredible project being an exception). Jeff admitted he wanted controversy, but Will Bruder...seriously? I thought that's what ULI was for. Do we need friends that badly? Are CNUers that insecure?

Andrés, where are you on all of this? Shall we give up on the problem of architectural quality in town planning and city infill? Is the secession to the millennials now so important that traditional architecture can (must?) be broken off from NU? Or put on hold? Not a word (at least not that I heard) on traditionalism (not even Heterodoxia)? Are we here on TradArch on probation for too much Palladiofilia? Hell, I'd settle for some Plecnik. Zippo. Maybe I went to all the wrong sessions, or the good stuff is coming today, but I don't think so.

Er, excuse me: Classicism is here to save the world...meanwhile CNU is burning. We are in a dark age. What happened?

~ David Rau

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