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Über dieses Buch

Despite an uncertain economy, the market for green building is exploding. The US green building market has expanded dramatically since 2008 and is projected to double in size by 2015 (from $42 billion in construction starts to $135 billion). But green-building pioneer Sim Van der Ryn says, “greening” our buildings is not enough. He advocates for “empathic design”, in which a designer not only works in concert with nature, but with an understanding of and empathy for the end user and for one's self. It is not just one of these connections, but all three that are necessary to design for a future that is more humane, equitable, and resilient.

Sim’s lifelong focus has been in shifting the paradigm in architecture and design. Instead of thinking about design primarily in relation to the infrastructure we live in and with—everything from buildings to wireless routing—he advocates for a focus on the people who use and are affected by this infrastructure. Basic design must include a real understanding of human ecology or end-user preferences. Understanding ones motivations and spirituality, Sim believes, is critical to designing with empathy for natural and human communities.

In Design for an Empathic World Van der Ryn shares his thoughts and experience about the design of our world today. With a focus on the strengths and weaknesses in our approach to the design of our communities, regions and buildings he looks at promising trends and projects that demonstrate how we can help create a better world for others and ourselves. Architects, urban designers, and students of architecture will all enjoy this beautifully illustrated book drawing on a rich and revered career of a noted leader in their field. The journey described in Design for an Empathic World will help to inspire change and foster the collaboration and thoughtfulness necessary to achieve a more empathic future.



1. Introduction

In the fall of 2008 after the beginnings of the financial meltdown on Wall Street, I started getting frantic calls and e-mails from both young and seasoned architects who’d been laid off and also a smaller number of communications from people who worked on Wall Street—mostly young but also some more senior people. I’m not sure why they contacted me—the architects might have known about me or read my books—certainly not the Wall Streeters, whom I did ask, “Why are you calling me?” Their answer was that they were referred to me by mutual friends.
Sim Van der Ryn

2. Human-Centered Design

In 1964, President Johnson pushed through the Economic Opportunity Act, the centerpiece of the War on Poverty. Governor Pat Brown appointed Dr. Paul O’Rourke, a longtime advocate for improving farmworker living conditions, as director of the new agency, California Office of Economic Opportunity. O’Rourke chose as its highest priority improving housing, health care, and child care for migrant farm labor families in California’s Central Valley, where most of the US vegetable crops are grown. He retained my partner Sanford Hirshen and me to plan, design, and build facilities for migrant farmworker housing, health and child care in twenty-two rural counties. There were no building codes for farmworker housing. How could you write a code for families camping out under a bridge, sleeping in their cars, or living in an abandoned shack where a labor contractor stuffed as many workers as possible? Our assignment was not only to design and build the facilities, but also to find and secure the sites, which neither the counties nor the farmers were eager to provide. The industry needed tens of thousands of workers during the growing season and harvest times, but they didn’t want them living in their backyards.
Sim Van der Ryn

3. Nature-Centered Design

Nature can live without humans, but humans cannot live without nature. Architecture can make this truth transparent and allow us to experience nature at a deep, transformative level. An important mission of green building and sustainable design is to bring architecture and urban planning back into the flow and cycles of nature. We need to reconnect buildings to their roots in climate, land, and place for current and future generations. We need to design with the understanding of our genetic need to be connected to living natural environments (biophilia). Architects need to not only reduce the obscene, mindless consumption and waste in the name of design, but design regenerative, living systems. We can make buildings and communities whole through commonsense design that incorporates life-enhancing technologies that incorporate the basic elements of sun, water, healthy landscapes, and clean air wherever possible.
Sim Van der Ryn

4. Lifetime Learning Design

Formal architectural education started in two types of institutions in Europe in the late nineteenth century. The polytechnic institutes in France and Germany focused on engineering and sciences; the art schools, such as the École des Beaux-Arts in France, focused on individual artistic ability in drawing, painting, and design. The latter became the model for most architectural programs. The establishment of academic architecture programs is related to the rapid growth of the Industrial Revolution, with a widening of a wealthy merchant class, new technologies, and new building types such as factories, schools, and hospitals. There was a shift from the geometric designer/master builder handicraft in the medieval and Renaissance building to the engineer/institute-trained architect working with mechanical production of component parts and building systems.
Sim Van der Ryn

5. Opportunities for Empathic Design

Having looked at where we have been and where we are now, we take a look at where we can go with empathic design. We can begin by making some assumptions regarding our future and how it will affect all of us and the nature of design. Climate chaos and global warming will reshape our institutions, our societies, how we live, and how and what we design.
Sim Van der Ryn

6. Journey to the Inner Self and Outer World

A quality of the Inner Self is that it puts us in touch with the Outer—experiencing the miracle of life itself in all its forms. The deeper you go into the true self, the closer you are to embodying a vision of the larger world that creates and maintains all life, a form of universal empathy. It is the bridge that recognizes our common humanity, and that we are all one. The great teachers who lived millennia ago offered something more radical than belief in a higher power. They offered a way of viewing reality that begins not with outside facts and a limited physical existence, but with inner wisdom and access to unbounded awareness. Carl Jung said, “Who looks outside, dreams, who looks within, awakens.”
Sim Van der Ryn


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