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Earth-friendly Design

Sustainability - Designing for Tomorrow

-reprinted from Civano Magazine

A Strategy of Change from William McDonough

William McDonough is the Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia and Principal of William McDonough + Associates.

We are at a very dramatic point in the evolution of human intention and design, especially regarding land use and community.  In many respects, the modern cultural approach to design can be typified as exhibiting a kind of "timeful mindlessness".  We raced headlong to satisfy today's concerns without honoring the character and dimension of the human and natural systems we supplant, and we ignore the inter-generational effects of our current acts on humans and other species.  If design is a profound signal of human intention, then we might well ask: Did we ever really intend for our land-use to turn out the way it has?  Do we intend to maintain the trajectory on which we find ourselves?

In the making of our communities, many people in our nation are realizing that if we continue with our current mode we have tragedies in the making.  We are seeing the degradation of the quality of our land, our air, our water, and the signs everywhere are too plentiful to ignore.  If we actually had intended these results, one might say we have adopted a strategy of tragedy.

We can begin to contemplate something that begins to offer hope for something new, something richer in its potential.  It is a time to be humble.  This is not to say we know what to do, but simply to say we know we cannot keep doing what we have been doing.  It is time to move toward something else, a strategy of change.

In the area of community development and land-use, we see people adopting strategies of change, revitalizing blighted neighborhoods and degraded commercial and industrial sites.  We see strategies of change for urban cores, edge cities, strip malls, suburban shopping malls, and we see comprehensive compact developments like Civano.  The one thing that characterizes all of these strategic actions is their insistence on "connectivity."

Success in community building is rendered by achieving a critically effective state of internal and external connections, which, in fact, allow the system to "self-actualize."  A biologist might say, the easiest way to heal an ecosystem suffering from ill health is to connect it to more of itself.  In this respect, this new design instinct represents a kind of healing for our communities, even, perhaps, a strategy of hope.  Civano has had so many years of development (not "development" as in dropping the latest commercial idea on a landscape and moving on, but as in the development of an idea, making it better and better, more and more comprehensive), that it represents one of our nation's finest harbingers of this strategy of hope.  So Civano is in the process of self-actualizing and it is a delight to see.

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