DPZ was founded in 1980 by Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk to replace suburban sprawl with neighborhood-based planning. At the time, Duany and Plater-Zyberk were founding partners of the still vital firm, Arquitectonica, renowned for its playful condominium towers on the Miami coast (yes, that condo with the big hole in the middle that appeared in Miami Vice was a design of that firm). However, a serious concern began to grow within both young architects, who struggled with how the individual buildings they designed did not relate in any meaningful way to the cities surrounding them. This concern soon evolved into the team finding ways to design environments in which the placement of individual buildings made sense in an urban context and held less importance than the spaces between them.
After establishing their new firm, they began developing what would become the guiding principles of smart, sustainable development with the landmark project of Seaside in the Florida Panhandle. This now famous resort “village by the sea” on Florida’s Gulf Coast won worldwide praise as the first traditionally organized new town designed in over 50 years.
Shortly thereafter, Duany and Plater-Zyberk co-founded the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), a non-profit organization established with the goal of transforming the built environment from ad-hoc suburban sprawl towards human-scale neighborhood development. The CNU has been recognized by the New York Times as “the most important collective architectural movement in the United States in the past fifty years”. The term New Urbanism was a conscious invention to bring attention to the crisis of ad hoc suburban development, and to propose a less wasteful alternative to sprawl.
The universal principles of the New Urbanism movement promote the creation of real communities with pedestrian-oriented, transit-ready neighborhoods. These neighborhoods encourage mixed uses, and allow the landscape to shape their streets. The movement, initially called “neo-traditional” planning, has grown to broad application and acceptance. Its principles project a sustainable quality of life that competes with the conventional suburban dream.