ARE YOU A NEW URBANIST? Jaime Correa responds
Updated: Jul 25, 2019
Because of a social media post on Facebook, a few professional and academic colleagues as well as a few members of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), have relentlessly tried to challenge Jaime Correa’s strong commitment to the reconstitution of the city and to what the original group of 14 American architects and town planners, Correa included, baptized with the name “New Urbanism” c.1990 – a catchy slogan preceded with the word “New” to capture the consumerist desires of developers and the attention of public officials.
Despite the controversy, Jaime Correa has not backed down and his commitment to the American city and to New Urbanism(s) remains as strong as ever. In a recent interview, at his inaugural lecture at the “Interrupted City Symposium” in Rome, he said, “I always thought that the symbolical aspects of my work had political and social implications; but, I never thought that my informal opinions would generate such unbridled antagonism among my close colleagues and friends”. He added, “Part of the reason why I have established a successful “paper architecture” practice is my own incapacity to deal with people who lack critical judgement; at the same time, I am developing, with an infinite amount of patience, the kind of work which I sincerely prefer – one in which ethic, moral, and aesthetic values supersede the lack of rationalism and critical judgement characterizing the urban design dogmatism of the last few years. My recent interest on actually doing something “New” grew because my “paper architecture” work became easier, cleaner, and more stimulating”.
Jaime Correa’s troubles began on April 29, 2015 with the publishing of the following photo and Facebook post:
"WHY AM I NOT ATTENDING THE CNU IN DALLAS? Relinquishing its role as a combatant place of creativity, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) has entered a dull epoch where its design methodology has become formulaic, dogmatic, oversimplified, and imperialistic. At the risk of being excommunicated, its current members are no longer allowed to incur into the healthy intellectual agitation that brought the CNU to life in the first place; they are supposed to bow with devotion to the socio-political concerns of others and to keep quiet even in light of severe philosophical and professional contradictions. The project presentations and salons sound more like public relations campaigns and job securing interviews than as opportunities for advancement and intellectual discussion. Despite its name, the Congress is no such thing: it is simply a place where pseudo-spiritual luminaries produce 95% of the room luminescence and the rest aspire to shine just like them. I prefer to stay home and, like Borges, sleep in peace surrounded by books; at least, books give me the freedom to think, choose, and devise the numerous ways in which the urban design profession still needs to evolve; more importantly, at home, I don't have to fear any type of professional retaliation or deliberate ostracism for speaking my mind (April 19, 2015 at www.facebook.com/jaime.corrrea.1612)"
Jaime Correa’s intellectual, academic, and professional positions are not against “good urbanism” but against the mercantile and consumerist status in which the Congress for the New Urbanism has fallen within the last decade or so. If he decided to isolate himself it was not because he resigned to the"design tenets of good cities” but because he could not understand the doctrinaire, extremely pragmatic, and sloppy statements of some of the CNU luminaries. As he said, “I could not think of any great explanations and gradually became disenchanted when I came to the conclusion that there weren’t any”.
In a recent conversation with Andres Duany, Correa said, “It is time to realize that the presence of a “New Team Ten” is now in the trenches of the CNU. As an organization, the CNU is agonizing in the hands of transportation planners and environmentalists; nevertheless, most of its original emotions and beliefs should not be forgotten. This conundrum only proves our original idea about incremental cities and architecture: the bigger the institution, the less effective it will get”. Then he added, “As a true New Urbanist, in my heart and in my soul, I believe that it is time to dismantle the CNU. I know how hard this might be for you but, please think about it”.