On October 30, noted developer Robert Davis gave a lecture at the School of Architecture titled, “Smart Growth Development: The Pursuit of Traditional Towns.” He is the developer and co-founder of Seaside, Florida, the first New Urbanist community in the United States, described by Time magazine as “…the most astonishing design achievement of its era and one might hope, the most influential.” Seaside is considered one of the most successful and controversial examples of neotraditional town planning in existence today. The New Urbanist principles that guided the development of Seaside have been embraced and adopted by an increasing number of scholars, developers, planners and critics.
In his lecture, Davis mapped the collaborative process necessary to create walkable towns in a contemporary context. He noted how the most beautiful, walkable cities built in the past would basically be illegal to build today, given contemporary zoning laws. “Town-founding,” Davis said, “means that you really have to be willing to devote much of your career to making a place. It also requires a high tolerance for complexity. You can not be a specialist and be a town-founder. You can’t just be a shopping center developer. You have to get involved in civics, in politics, in the arts—in a whole series of things that will help make your place function better and be more filled with life.”