They have the same passions and are singing the same love song- about cities. They even held their national meetings in the same conference hotel in Charlotte, with overlapping days and nights. So why is one up-and-coming while the other is losing fans?
For New Urbanism, one reason is age. New Urbanism is no longer new. Even more important is founder’s syndrome. Andres Duany has never let New Urbanism go, and non-designers have secondary status. Third is money. New Urbanism sells primarily to public planning departments, and they have small budgets. And fourth is results. There are too many drawings and not enough buildings on the ground.
Strong Towns, on the other hand, bills itself as a movement. If New Urbanism has become a kind of Catholic priesthood of urban design, Chuck Marohn, the head of Strong Towns, is the Martin Luther of civil engineering. His national “gathering” had sessions on fighting highways, using social media, and running for office. His sidekick, Joe Minicozzi of Urban3, focuses on fiscal responsibility, his customers are the chief financial officers of cities, and a lot of cities face a financial crunch.
Interestingly, both groups are about governing- the design and construction of cities- but neither looks at how business and industry use place. That’s a void, for Covid has changed the way we live and work, and this will upend the real estate in cities like Charlotte. Wouldn’t it be interesting if either group reached out to the talent officers of tech firms? We might, just might, get a different take on where and how to build.