Stay tuned for more accomplishments from Duany and Plater-Zyberk, who have arranged a gradual transfer of DPZ's majority ownership to Khoury, Low, and Tahchieva over the next six years. As the pair move away from day-to-day operations, they'll spend more time on their nonprofit, the Center for Applied Transect Studies (CATS). CATS has about a dozen projects under way, including freeware codes and standards, books, seminars, and design work, all addressing the complexities of land use that have occupied Duany and Plater-Zyberk for decades. As thoughtfully as they shape a neighborhood or write a code, they've mapped out a logical transition for their careers and their firm. Like all creative pioneers, they're always several steps ahead of the rest of us.
1977: Co-founded Arquitectonica
1980: Founded Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co.
1982: Designed master plan for Seaside, Fla.
1988: Designed master plan for Kentlands, Gaithersburg, Md.
1993: Co-founded Congress for the New Urbanism
1996: Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, FAIA, becomes dean of University of Miami School of Architecture
2001: Vincent Scully Prize from National Building Museum
2005: Andrés Duany, FAIA, leads Mississippi Renewal Forum after Hurricane Katrina
2008: Richard H. Driehaus Prize from University of Notre Dame School of Architecture; Plater-Zyberk named to U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
2009: Miami 21 (at right) approved by Miami Planning Advisory Board but blocked by Miami City Commission; awaiting potential further review
excerpts from interviews with dpz staff and observers
Andrés Duany, FAIA
"I practiced as a modernist architect in Arquitectonica. I still design modern architecture if it's contextual—the Charter [of the New Urbanism] states as much as that. Style is not an issue—contextualism is [the important thing.] Seaside, Fla., has modernist buildings.
There are three ways to do architecture. One is the architecture of personality: Meier for a Meier building, Gehry for a Gehry building. Second is the architecture of time: keeping up with the latest. Most modernist firms do that. Third is an architecture of place, in which you fit into the place. New Urbanists do an architecture of place—when there is a modern context they do modern architecture, and where there is traditional architecture they do traditional architecture. We ask people what they want, and in the United States people overwhelmingly want traditional architecture.
Lizz [Plater-Zyberk, FAIA, LEED AP] and I designed our own apartment in Miami Beach, Fla. It's very different—very urban, and on a beach. We live [full time] in Coral Gables, Fla., which is suburban, in a traditional house we've had for 30-plus years. We can find a different place within 15 minutes. Miami is a very interesting city. You can immigrate internally.
Other people have advertising budgets. We have research budgets. Early on, we took that decision, to keep doing research and development and not advertise.
We're very decentralized as a firm. We have outliers and affiliate offices. We continue our associations with ex-employees. We are shapeshifters. We have lots of projects now in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates#8212;big urban projects and new towns and existing ones. They're over the glitz. They've got the icons, but they don't have decent urbanism. New Urbanism doesn't go out of style.
My most important influences are Vincent Scully, who got us thinking about American architecture. That was very rare at the time. Léon Krier, who taught us urbanism. And Christopher Alexander, for his systematic rigor.
The New Urbanists are all very associated [with one another.] We're trying to come up with a nonideological architecture. We haven't evolved it yet, but have had meetings. This is a good time for ideas."
Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, FAIA, LEED AP
"My first memory of wanting to be an architect is of looking at absolutely luscious pencil drawings on my [architect] father's bulletin board. I am [also] influenced by the absolute simplicity of small buildings of the Colonial era. With Bob Venturi [, FAIA, Int. FRIBA] and with our Arquitectonica partners, there was a great emphasis on the floor plan. Both firms were very taken with the image of the building—how to do something new and unexpected while working in a tradition, and doing something that would be culturally acceptable, not experimental.
With Seaside, we weren't thinking the porches might be a social element. They were more for cooling the house. [We were studying the ideas of] Doug Kelbaugh [, FAIA], one of the leading lights on solar architecture and thinking green at the time.
We have a wonderful group of people at the University of Miami. I'm currently designing a house for the president of the school.
Andrés and I have discussions over time. We often end up on opposing sides of the fence in terms of opinion and even aesthetics. It has been enriching, because sometimes one will win out and sometimes the other will—we get the both/and perspective.
The goal of Miami 21 is to rewrite the zoning code as a form-based code so this city, which has suburban genetics and is now an adolescent, can go through finishing school and be a walkable, refined city.
In the world of architecture, there are many, many colleagues I admire. Vincent Scully, Bob Stern [, FAIA], Bob Venturi and Denise Scott Brown [, RIBA, Int. FRIBA]. Liz Moule [, AIA], Stef Polyzoides, Steve Mouzon, my colleagues at the university. There are too many to name."
Gary L. Brewer, AIA, partner, Robert A.M. Stern Architects
"In each of the regions they build in, their projects develop not only a master plan for the area, they also establish a high level of building quality. So many good houses get built there—they establish a pattern book for the whole region. An incredible influence and trickle-down effect. The lessons people learn about building design there (at Seaside and Rosemary Beach, Fla., for example) serve as a model for people all over the world. It is a pattern book in the best sense.
Beyond the work they do with their firm and with teaching, they're out and about and involved with everything. They are mentors in a great way.
The majority of the architecture community is smart enough to know that New Urbanism is currently the only real option. I think most architects are behind it.
Another great thing about Andrés and Lizz (and Léon Krier) is that they're willing to take on people in conferences and in the press. They're willing to debate."
Tom Low, AIA, LEED AP, partner, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co.
"Change is in the air. There's a cultural shift going on. There's a lot of bad news out there but also a lot of [opportunity]. The three big factors today seem to be: 1) community/quality of life; 2) the tidal wave of environmentalism that has risen up in a really positive way; and 3) how agriculture/local food ties in with energy/peak oil. I think those three factors have converged now. I think a lot of those decisions are going to be made differently in the future. Some of the things we've been incubating, maybe it's a good time for them.
I'm really proud of the work we've been doing. With our little regional office here in [Charlotte, N.C.], we're stirring the pot. We team up a lot. We have lots of friends, and when there's a particular challenge, we think about who would be good for that. I try to do the same thing regionally.
I'm one of the two or three oldest people in the firm, at 52. I've been around since 1989. I was an architect for 10 years in Charlotte, and was burning out. My wife and I went down to Miami for grad school. We were there for five years. Then we had a child, and I wanted to move back to North Carolina because of my family. Lizz and Andrés were very supportive.
[I'm working on a program called] Light Imprint. The era of suburban expansion is over. We need a framework to deal with infrastructure. Infrastructure can be exciting, interesting, actually beautiful. It's kind of hip. At a meeting of stormwater experts, I met the most interesting, astute, socially dynamic people who are involved with this.
New Urbanism comes into a region in different ways. The way it's introduced is the way it's perceived. For example, in the Florida Panhandle, it's seen as nice resort housing. In Washington, D.C., it's seen as upper-end suburban—a better alternative to the usual stuff. In Richmond, Va., it's seen as affordable housing, and in Charlotte, it's seen as starter housing.
Andrés and Lizz are amazing people. I see them leaving a legacy like Frank Lloyd Wright or Le Corbusier. I see them having that imprint on our world.
We started the Civic by Design Forum to connect to regular folks and cut through all this ideological stuff. The goal is to establish a presence here for designers. We try to bring speakers in from time to time."
Scott Merrill, AIA, principal, Merrill Pastor &Colgan Architects
"DPZ's work just gets more rich and subtle and complex. Also, the sheer scale they are capable of addressing! I'm also impressed with the fact that they have at their beck and call so many people who seem tailored for the project, with the sophistication of the teams they have to put together.
Instead of dropping in a uniform grid, DPZ's plans usually leave in their wake plots that are incredibly varied in their geometry. With their architectural codes, DPZ usually has something in mind—it's usually to a point and not just restrictions. I've never found it even close to constrictive."
Marina Khoury, LEED AP, partner, DPZ
"We're often partnering up with engineers, other planners, architects—it's very rarely just DPZ. I've been there 12 years, and in that time it's always been that way.
Miami 21 has been a grueling process. It's the biggest example of a form-based code in the country. Most zoning codes are use-based, i.e., single-family homes, multifamily homes, etc. We believe that uses have a secondary role and form is more important. It's OK to have changing uses. Very simply put, we believe in small buildings next to small, medium next to medium, and large next to large. Density is secondary—we're looking at the relationship of buildings to each other and to the street.
Agricultural urbanism is a very interesting part of what we do. There's an increased awareness of food safety and transportation costs, and people want to eat more healthy in general. Community gardens are everywhere. We've found ways to weave agriculture into urbanism, and vice versa. More municipalities are integrating agriculture into their codes, i.e., they're allowing chicken coops or rules for community gardens."
Robert A. Beauregard, director, Urban Planning Program, Columbia University
"One of the brilliant strategic moves Duany, et al. made was to write code. A lot of communities are adopting this. Is it a trend? That's hard to say. But it is growing."
Elizabeth "Boo" Thomas, ASLA, president, Center for Planning Excellence, Baton Rouge, La.
"Because Andrés' plan [Plan Baton Rouge, done in 1998] is so good and it's a living document, we have continued to implement it. He makes you look at how you're using your land. I love the fact that DPZ has forced designers to look at how people really use the spaces."
Galina Tahchieva, LEED AP, partner, DPZ
"DPZ is very difficult to pin down. We are deeply anchored in our practice—our projects and charrettes. We are rooted in building places, in [dealing with] the reality of clients and the real estate market. On the other hand, we function as a sort of think tank.
Also, there is a very obvious continuity in the thinking of the firm. But on the other hand, it is very dynamic. Things change very fast. We are capable of a kind of maneuvering. Nothing is permanent—it's very fluid. Also, we are a small to medium-size firm, but we have around us other people, affiliates, consultants, and associates who we work with.
Most of us live and breathe our work. It's more than work—it's about our thinking and beliefs.
We started the Urban Sprawl Repair Kit last year, to gather up the best practices of the Congress for the New Urbanism on suburban sprawl repair. It documents a series of step-by-step practical methodologies. There's a lot of literature out there on sprawl history, why it happened, regulating it, etc., but not too much on how to do it. We need a document, a manual of how to do it step by step."
Alexander Gorlin, FAIA, principal, Alexander Gorlin Architects
"Andrés is a very commanding presence. He's polemical and exaggerated. He's a very interesting figure—one of the great polemicists of our time. He and Lizz are very open-minded, much more so than people imagine. At Seaside, my own townhouse is very modern. They're more interested in typology, in restrictions that are not stylistic. The codes are diagrammatic, not style-based. That distinguishes what DPZ does from a lot of the other New Urbanists.
I think Andrés is the most important urban planner since Corbu. He is to Corbu as Jane Jacobs was to Robert Moses."
Xavier Iglesias, senior project manager and director of public relations, DPZ
"We're generalists. That probably [is what] distinguishes our urban work—we're not just planners. We can design individual buildings and interiors too.
Being aware that there are places with different character is woven into DPZ. We come from different places. Most of our design is based on trying to carry forward these wonderful local traditions.
DPZ is a family. There's a very collegial spirit of cooperation and mutual support and respect. It all comes from Andrés and Lizz."
Mike Watkins, Michael Watkins Architect, former DPZ employee
"They are incredibly efficient. At a DPZ charrette, every person is producing. They just don't dawdle. DPZ is very much a family atmosphere. Andrés and Lizz care a lot about the people who work for them. It's a challenging, stimulating, rewarding place to work."