“Americans do not really love their landscape,” Douglas Kelbaugh, dean of the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, said last night in reference to vanishing of open spaces in cities across the United States.
Kelbaugh was the moderator at the launch of the fourth National Academic Symposium on New Urbanism yesterday in Rackham Auditorium.
The symposium will continue through tomorrow with events on both North and Central campuses.
Thirty guest speakers from the architectural community will participate in the symposium, Kelbaugh said. The symposium will address the concerns regarding “new urbanism,” a term for a reaction to sprawl. A growing movement of architects, planners and developers, new urbanism is a theory that regards traditional neighborhood patterns as essential to creating functional and sustainable communities.
Kelbaugh also talked about the challenges facing new urbanism and the ability of the new urbanist community to be open to change. Regarding the different theories of architecture, he said that besides some differences, architects are still united.
“What holds us together I think is a love of cities. We love good towns and cities,” Kelbaugh said.
Kelbaugh further said there has been a deterioration of urban standards, citing Detroit as an example.
“The inner cities of Detroit are literally decanted. They are sweeping away the urban fabric to accommodate automobile parking,” he said.
The four panel members were authors Peter Calthrope and Alex Krieger, former Princeton University faculty member Stefanos Polyzoides and Michael Sorkin, a former architecture critic. Calthrope and Polyzoides are two co-founders of the New Urbanism Congress.
Sorkin started the discussion by declaring he was not a follower of new urbanist thought and offered 10 pieces of advice to his fellow panel members. He emphasized the necessity of taking the environment seriously.
He told the new urbanists on the panel to “act more like a congress and a little less like a cult.”
Sorkin questioned what the new urbanists represented.
“What is it you people really stand for? These are bromides. We all agree with this,” he said, referring to the principles of new urbanism.
Calthrope dismissed Sorkin”s comments as “ridiculous stereotypes” that were always brought up at such conferences.
Alan Loomis, a Pasadena, Calif., urban designer, said he found the discussion promising.
“I have attended two of the previous symposiums and the character of the debate here has been far less contentious, especially compared to Harvard. This will probably be the most productive symposium just based on its first night,” Loomis said.
Kristen Burton, an Architecture graduate student, said the symposium brings issues into the college and brings professionals and big names to campus, she said.
Burton defined new urbanism as “a deliberate attempt to create a sense of community. New urbanists are also more pragmatic than other urban theorists,” she said.
Architecture graduate student Elizabeth George said she enjoyed seeing the live debate.
“I think it”s interesting to see people you read about all the time respond to questions you have,” George said.
Connie Rizzolo-Brown, project manager for Damian Farrell Design Group, a local architectural firm, said she enjoyed the event.
“The panelists were not voicing the same opinions over and over again. There also seems to be some dissent,” Rizzolo-Brown said.