Andrés Duany in California

search the Original Green Blog

IMG 0178-as-Smart-Object-1

   The awesome quote machine otherwise known as Andrés Duany just did a charrette in California, and I tweet-casted several of his presentations and conversations. It's a private project, but because so much of what he says is about principles rather than particulars, it wasn't so hard to filter out the things that were project-specific and possibly undisclosed publicly at this point. Here are the tweets:

• The environmental ideal worldwide is humans behaving well with nature except in the US, where it's the absence of humans in nature. This is because popular US environmentalism began with the national parks program.

• If you only address objections, you always lose. You must shift discussion to a larger ideal that also solves the objection. <this one got a ton of re-tweets>

• The hippies of the '60s won't be content with retirement institutions. They need cool town centers where they can kick back.

• <my comment> Andrés explains the rationale of a charrette, purportedly for client, but it's of great value to design team as well for two reasons: it's good to be reminded what's important about what you're doing, and because he's always re-stating things different rather than just parroting a tired old line, I always get something new.

• You cannot choose whether to have traffic congestion, only the # of lanes. Do you want 2, 4, 6, or 8 lanes of congestion? <this one also got a ton of re-tweets>

• Most transportation engineers only know how to add trips, but mixed-use places diminish trips. The engineers need to learn subtraction… it's a useful mathematical tool.

• <overheard from an environmental regulator at the charrette> "You can't build a road where the road is because the wheel ruts are now habitat to the shrimp." My question is probably obvious: "so what happens to the shrimp when a vehicle drives down those existing wheel ruts?"

• Always point out problems with your design before your opponents do. At the very least they concede you're honest.

• <from Howard Blackson upon seeing a building in the San Diego harbor with a sawtooth roof as if it had solar panels (but it doesn't)> "People pay a premium in California for fauxstainable architecture. <Awesome term, Howard… thanks so much!>

• The world has had a traffic problem since Pompeii. Build a lane and it fills up.

• In most places in California, if you don't drive, you die. Literally. Driving is essential to remaining alive. But we can build places here where that's not true.

• Downtown San Diego has the highest density in the region but the least congestion because of connectivity. People think that more density means more congestion but that simply is not true.

• People say "we will reduce traffic by clipping grids" but that's exactly backward. The more you connect the less you congest. <this one got a lot of re-tweets as well>

• The lousiest conceivable plan is one that reduces units and occupies more of the land.

• A smaller human footprint makes retail work much better because more people are within walking distance of Main Street.

• Some of the most-loved towns in Italy occupy less than 50 acres. You can't even build a shopping center that small in the US.

• I have a dream that there will someday be a healthy balance between the rights of humans and the rights of the rest of nature.

• The only reason to build on a hill in our day is to get the view. So why are lots and houses so deep, where only back rooms get views? We saw houses where you had to march through four or five rooms to get to the back room, where you could finally find the view.

• Houses on hillsides that are thin down the slope but long down the street sit lightly on the land. This is exactly the opposite of the types of houses we've designed within the New Urbanism for over thirty years, but it's what you need if you want to build a hill town because most of the town is built on hillsides, not the hilltop.

• As a general rule, the more you spend on infrastructure and development regulations the worse the places are that get built.

• The most wonderful places are the ones we're not allowed to do anymore.

• Recreation centers are usually mega-structures, and are so 20th centuries. But if you take them apart into individual buildings, then their parts can be used to help build a town center.

• Water doesn't mind running a mile in a pipe, especially if it's for a good cause like a great town center.

• There's a great fear of townhouses in California because most townhouses here don't have towns. But if you build them in towns, they can be fabulous.

• People think 6-plex apartments are horrible. They can be, if you design them conventionally where there's only light on one side of each unit. But if you design them so that each apartment gets light from three sides, they can be fabulous.

• People who clip roads are those who want traffic congestion. You can't cul-de-sac your way out of congestion. <here's another one with lots of re-tweets>

• Standard-issue collectors are begging for more traffic, but a winding road through several hamlets won't be crowded because it takes a long time to stop at all those little hamlet squares and through the neighborhoods.

• America needs many more 1-bedroom houses.

• You don't have to rotate the entire house because the solar panels don't usually need to be much larger than the garage. So just rotate the garage, but let the house follow the land.

• Long thin houses cross-ventilate and daylight beautifully.

• Garages are very useful things, not only for catching the sun but also for blocking your neighbor's view of your back yard.

• Unlike developer ranchers which are horrible, the original Cliff May ranch houses were fabulous.

• Idea houses don't usually rise above the level of decorator ideas. What matters now is leaner Original Green living. We need an idea house with Original Green ideas. <no, I didn't editorialize… that's what he said>

• You don't reduce traffic with lower density and larger lots because everyone has to drive everywhere.

• This isn't the old environmentalism where the granola broke your teeth, or where you got splinters from all the rough wood. Lean urbanism is smarter than that.

• Great urbanism takes pressure off the houses, allowing them to be calmer.

• The only parking break we ask for is to count the parking that's on the street.

• The bad thing about great urbanism is that it takes about 10 years to really get there. It doesn't get built overnight.

• It's easier to get people out of their cars if it's a bit of a pain to get in your car. Production-built houses actually give the cars a room to stay in within the house, almost like bedrooms for children.

• Great places have a wider range of unit sizes, but a smaller range of architectural style. The reason builders have to use several styles is because their houses are so similar.

• Alys Beach is so beautiful precisely because the architecture is so harmonious.

• If you have flexible guidelines like in Britain rather than codes, everything about the development process is negotiation and it takes longer. You're also subject to the whims of the regulator. When you enter a meeting, you need to come in stooped over, like a supplicant. But at the end of the day, the regulator of a guideline can't actually turn you down… they can only make the process last much longer.

• Urbanism adds the greatest value when the site is poor. When the site is an awesome piece of land, urbanism doesn't add as much value.

• When I was young I could do great things because there was no bureaucracy in many places. The young people today have never known this great freedom.

• The dinosaurs of the CNU work to resolve the world's problems from the top down. I want to institutionalize the bypasses around the dinosaur codes. I do this by daylighting the mitigating language of codes. These are the secret keys that let you do good things when the code itself appears to ban what's good. These keys act as patches.

• "This is the problem. This is the patch. And this is the attack on the patch." We need to have this entire conversation.

• City administrators must take away the bureaucrats' liability if they hope to move sensible things forward because every bureaucrat is afraid of being held liable for what they allow.

• <from Bill Fulton> Urbanists are just people who don't want to go home.

• <also from Bill Fulton> If the process were easy, consultants' income would plummet. This is the hidden driver of red tape… it supports many consulting jobs.

• The point of having a meeting in the US is to get stuff done; in Latin America, the point is to have a great meeting.

• The American Dream is not just the cabin in the woods, it's being your own boss. It's the live-work unit, not the McMansion.

   ~Steve Mouzon

© The Guild Foundation 2017