CNU21 Sarah Susanka's Session

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2013 Barranco Award

   I presented the 2013 Barranco Award at the beginning of the Friday morning plenary. Andrew von Maur was this year's winner, but he was traveling in Europe with his students. So Mark Moreno, a fellow-professor at Andrews University, accepted the award for Andrew. Here are my remarks.

Not So Big Meets the New Urbanism


   I had the pleasure of hearing Sarah Susanka speak for the first time in the Friday plenary. I've spoken with her by email for years, and have contributed some of my photographs to her presentations, so this was a treat. Here are my tweets from her presentation:

• I have felt for so long that we have these parallel movements attracting similar people - CNU and Not So Big.

• I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, but how do we make these ideas simple enough that people see?

• We have to begin to bring the New Urbanism into everyday language so we can share what we know more broadly.

• I grew up in a little village in England; we walked everywhere. I walked to the grocery with my mother.

• The thought of children not having the ability to move around in their world seems so sad.


• I remember after moving to Los Angeles as a teen and walking two miles to the grocery at a local strip mall… in tears.

• "We must be the change we wish to see in the world" -Ghandi I don't believe we fully understand that phrase. More on this later.

• Architecture school tends to be fairly harsh, so people get hardened to fight to get their ideas across. At the University of Oregon, we didn't call them "juries," but rather "discussions." It was much more civilized.

• I and my partner started our careers by going to the local home and garden shows. America is desperate for design help, but they don't know where to go to find it.

• We all look for something big because we think it's going to make us feel better.

• The quality that people are looking for doesn't reside in bigness.

• Where's the edge of where we have enough? we'll never find it.

• More food, more shelter, more security… these things will never completely fill the void we feel.

• The feeling of home is a quality, not a quantity.

• The key is finding the sense of home in your own life.

• Community is a quality, just like home is a quality.

• It's an incredible gift to be able to connect with other humans in the creation of their communities and homes.

• Our thoughts are the architecture of our world.

• By continually telling people I was too busy, I was creating the world of "too busyness."

• I realized after years that if I didn't make a change to start writing, nobody was going to do it for me.

• I penciled my writing time into my own calendar. I felt very guilty at first, taking time from my architecture clients, but as I made time, support came.

• It is the simplicity of message that helps people enter what we do.

• You're not writing to impress your fellow colleagues with long words. Simplicity is what speaks.

• Beauty & Balance, Harmony, Home as Security, Sustainability, Well-Being.


• Not So Big can be any size, but it's about a third smaller than what you thought you needed.

• A Not So Big house has the quality of being lived in… not acres of space we seldom visit.

• When you're having people over for dinner, it's not the king and queen of England; it's Joe and Kathy.

• We all had some small spot we loved to hang out as a child… remember yours. This is what we long for but are missing.

• A map of a city tells us nothing whatsoever about the character of the city.

• A map of a house is a floor plan. It tells us very little about the character of the house.

• The information of whether this is a good house does not exist on the floor plan.

• The third dimension is how you connect people to what they're missing. I don't know what the equivalent is for the New Urbanism.

• Light to Walk Towards isn't just a near-death experience… we're literally programmed to walk towards the light.

• The front porch needs to be part of the natural flow within the house if it is to be used.

• I put the kitchen and the dining nook at the front to help activate the front porch.

• It's not a big deal to move a few pieces of furniture to accommodate Thanksgiving dinner because it comes around only once a year.

• Ceiling height variety can help shape space without building walls.

• Get The End of the Suburbs by Leigh Gallagher. It's due out August 2013, and has lots of good press for the New Urbanism.

• Not So Big Living means following your own heart.


• We must use language that communicates what we're really talking about.

• Simple language connects the dots for regular people. I was insulted when my publisher first asked me to write The Not So Big House at an eighth grade level, but it has spread broadly.

• It is critical to foster intermingling of the generations so that they can each teach the other.

• In crises, we learn what really matters, which is our connection with our neighbors - we need to design places that foster that connection.

• Our lives are being run by our stuff, and we have too much stuff, but the void we're trying to fill can't be filled by buying more of it.

• Is there a period in your life when some things are turned off? I don't open email until after lunch, for example.

• We really need to take back the parts of life that nourish us.

• When you look with the eyes of a student, everything can teach you.

• We live in an awesome world, but we're going so fast that we might not even see it.

• We're so busy with our thinking that we miss the big point.

• What is it that really inspires you? place your focus there. our thoughts are the architects of our lives.

• "The only way to change the world is to change yourself" is what I think Ghandi really meant.

• Our words have no effect until our lives back them up.

• When you embody what you're asking, the world changes with you.

• Stay clear on what it is that you're really longing to do, and place your focus there.

   ~Steve Mouzon

© The Guild Foundation 2013