“Not houses finely roofed not the stones of walls well built nor canals nor dockyards make the city, but men able to use their opportunity.”

~Alcaeus, Greek Poet - 600 B.C.


Andrés Duany

at the Charleston Library Society

Photography by Christina Louise Hewson

It is 2015 and the City of Charleston is the center of the universe, or so it seems. Sections of the Holy City are changing in a blink. There are armies of workers erecting buildings all over the city. By all accounts, it was time for the Board of Architectural Review to step back and reassess their vision for the historic district. The BAR, with over 2000 projects alone in 2014, was looking for a “fresh eye” towards the city’s largest asset; her buildings.

 Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, along with the Historic Charleston Foundation, decided to bring one of the finest urban planners in America; to come and take a look, speak to the citizens, and make some notes of guidance. We were starting to not be able to see the forest for the trees. Andrés Duany was that person to come take a look. He is a champion. He was born in New York City and grew up in Cuba. He attended The Choate School and received his undergraduate degree in architecture and urban planning from Princeton University. After a year of study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, he received a master’s degree from the Yale School of Architecture. In 1980, Duany and his architect partner and wife, Elizabeth PlaterZyberk, began their quest to provide alternatives to suburban sprawl with their work on the “Seaside” project located in the Florida Panhandle. Since then, the firm they founded (DPZ) has created over two hundred “downtown” and “new town” plans. Their vision can be described as beautiful, sensible, sustainable, mixed use, pedestrian oriented, transit ready, and landscape shaped. Their life story is one of awards, publications, teaching, entire movements, and books. They co-founded the “Congress for New Urbanism” and wrote “The Smart Growth Manual” to name just two significant accomplishments in their massive body of work.


Andrés Duany is possibly the most knowledgeable and experienced architect and urban planner of our time, especially regarding Charleston, and he states, “Charleston is the greatest influence on my own work.” Mr. Duany critiqued the city’s codes, architecture, and related organizations. No stone was left unturned. His critique was sometimes delivered in a charming and witty manner. Other times, it was painfully directed at Duany’s perceived weak links in the process. He passionately defined his version of the “big picture” for Charleston and focused heavily on two areas: the “Charleston Brand” and the “Board of Architectural Review”. The “Charleston Brand” is already established and admired the world over. Charleston’s leaders simply need to understand it and protect it.

Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review (BAR) is overloaded and must be reorganized. Duany’s “prescription” gave Charleston a wealth of his insight, advice, and philosophy.


Duany’s Prescription


  • Build “Charleston Brand”, or don’t build it.
  • Reorganize the BAR: two divisions (Renovation/New) and meet more often Simplify/differentiate codes: Historic, College, Medical, Civic
  • Look inward: Mills House, Fort Sumter House, Peoples Building, The Francis Marion
  • Develop new “Charleston Brand” school of architecture:
  • Architecture, Preservation, Craftsmanship, Planning, Policy Development
  • Architectural tips:
  •  Develop a “vernacular” mindset
  •  Limit building height by number of stories, not by feet.
  •  Make first floor focal point/create flow
  •  Mask parking facilities
  •  Study local architecture of WG Clark and Neil Stevenson
  •  Utilize graduates of Charleston’s American College of the Building Arts
  •  Practice architectural teamwork
  •  Don’t import architectural ideas - export them
  • Beware of:
  •  Losing young talent
  •  Losing middle class housing
  •  NIMBYSM (not in my back yard)
  •  Geriatric monoculture
  •  Suburban sprawl
  •  Cruise Ships



Charleston’s Leaders Respond



Divide Board of Architectural Review:

New architecture and Preservation

Time for Reflection Positive Feedback Expressed Gratitude



Board of Architectural Review (BAR), Chair

Form two Boards



 Historic Charleston Foundation, Chief Preservation Officer

Status Quo Not Working – More Structure



 Former City Architect and Former BAR Member

 Duany “Fresh Eye” – Form Two Boards



 Simons Professor of Architecture College of Charleston

Form Two boards – Outdated Zoning Codes



 President of the American Institute of Architects’ Charleston Chapter

Duany Positive Energy – Look Forward To Teamwork



 Clemson Architecture Center

Ability To Have Healthy Conversation Lost



Architect and former BAR member

Form two Boards – Recent Larger Projects Wrong




Further Reading


Congress of the New Urbanism


Duany Recommendations PDF


Post & Courier Article on the Duany Talks


Christina Louise Hewson


Buildings Are Cool Review of the Week of Duany










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