How to make systems thinking sexy

[The following is based on the author’s keynote at the Buckminster Fuller Challenge awards in New York on 8 June. He was also on the 2010 jury of the Challenge.] We will not transition successfully to a restorative economy until systems thinking becomes as natural, for millions of people, as riding a bike. That’s a […]

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Sweat equity infra

It’s hard not to be impressed by the Millau Viaduct that’s down the road from where I live in France. The tallest bridge in the world boasts an eight-span steel roadway, is supported supported by seven huge concrete pylons, and weighs 36,000 tonnes. But consider this: The great pyramid in Egypt weighs 180 times more […]

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From ecstasy to exergy: Running out of easy copper

Built in 1978 by German steel company Krupp, the giant Bagger 288 was designed for open mining trenching. It took more than five years and $100 million to design and manufacture. It can move more than 76,000 cubic meters (~2,700,000 cubic ft) of coal, rock, and earth in a day. Why would anyone need to […]

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xskool: breathing the same air

Last weekend the first xskool class took place at West Lexham in England. As previously reported, xskool at this moment is more a question, than a project: Does the world need a professional development program to support designers, architects and their teachers making the transition to a new kind of design? The class of West […]

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Energy: A Sense Of Loss

Whenever electricity is transmitted from one place to another a certain amount is simply lost. In older grids, energy is wasted overcoming resistance in the lines themselves. In extremely high voltage lines, so-called corona discharge losses [as shown in the image above] can offset the lower resistance losses. Whether system-wide electricity losses amount to three […]

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Open: a survival issue

[A new book from the Dutch publisher Bis, Open Design Now, includes essays, cases and visuals on various issues of Open Design. The book contains practical guidelines for designers, design educators and policy makers to get started with Open Design. It also includes a preface, contributed by me, that is reproduced here]. In 1909, Peter […]

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A smooth journey

Two images have preoccupied me in recent days. The first one [below] was taken in a lounge at Paris airport. I remember being struck by the intense design effort that had been made to create a controlled and insulated environment. On the tv screen were images of the popular revolt that is unfolding, bloodily, in […]

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Do eco learning journeys need a travel agent?

I’ve written and spoken quite a lot in recent times about the changes designs institutions need to make. Sometimes, I was even asked to do so. Examples include a talk I did in Delhi earlier this year, What kind Of Design Institutes for India?; and a paper for Cumulus, the design schools network, called ‘Make […]

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From Eds & Meds, to Farms and Watersheds

The skyline of Pittsburgh, once America’s Steel City, is now dominated by towers belonging to two local giants of ‘Eds & Meds’ – education, and healthcare. Does this mean the city has successfully grown itself a resilient new economy? If architectural bravura was an indicator, the answer would be yes. The older tower [above] which […]

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