• August 21, 2012

    A huge urban master plan in southen France gets serious about nature as a project. In Bordeaux 55,000 (above) the city of Bordeaux (CUB) has [continue …]

  • August 1, 2012


    [continue …]

  • July 14, 2012

    Ritual as Feedback in Bali 

    The unique social and ecological nature of regional watersheds was the focus of a mesmerising presentation by Stephen Lansing at last month’s poptech conference in Iceland. His key point: Bali’s subak water management system is a “coupled [continue …]

  • July 14, 2012

    [Photo taken by the author at Instituto Inhotim, Brazil].

    People the world over are divided between radically different conceptions of their future: resource-intensive production on the [continue …]

  • July 2, 2012

    For some Icelanders, in a country whose inhabitants have survived 1,100 winters without central heating, the environmental costs of aluminium smelting are worth paying [continue …]

  • June 25, 2012

    This jequitiba tree in Brazil moves hundreds of gallons of water up into its canopy every day. It does so without pumps, without electricity, and [continue …]

  • June 3, 2012

    [Photograph by Tim Mitchell]

    You probably need to be naked to read this book with a clear conscience. This reader, for one, felt like stripping off [continue …]

  • May 13, 2012


    [I’m re-publishing this story to celebrate the fact that I just got to Sao Paulo, met Adelia Borges, and discovered that the first print-run of her book has sold out in just a couple of months. Adelia explained that one of the organisations [continue …]
  • May 11, 2012

    In pre-market-based societies, goods and services were distributed on the basis of gift-giving and reciprocity. The most effective strategy for security, in an age without bank accounts and insurance policies, was to develop a reputation for generosity and sharing. This is a heart-warming story – so shall we put it to [continue …]

  • May 9, 2012

    Illustration by Helle Schou Pedersen

    At a workshop on food in cities at Aarhus School of Architecture  in Denmark last week I learned: [continue …]

  • April 19, 2012

    It was generous of the The Building Information Centre (YEM) and 34Solo to host an xskool event in their city last week. Our starting [continue …]

  • April 10, 2012

    All credit to the brave persons from Silent UK for sharing with us their spectacular photographs from the top of Europe’s tallest building, the [continue …]

  • April 5, 2012

    Humanitarian crises caused by civil wars or natural disasters, such as in Haiti, often trigger a wave of support from us, the public. But our support [continue …]

  • March 30, 2012

    Last week the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (which has a new director, Martin Roth) staged a conference about Design & Risk. (The [continue …]

  • March 18, 2012

    “Increasing pressure on electronics companies to ensure that their products do not contain illicit minerals from the killing fields in eastern Congo is beginning to have a significant impact. With bills [continue …]

  • March 4, 2012

    We can do this the hard way or the easy way. The easy way is that you skip this post and buy the book now.

    The hard way is that your reviewer attempts to describe a 320 page book whose contents have been shaped by the infinitely varied experiences of [continue …]

  • February 27, 2012

    As the guest last week of Zurich University of the Arts I set the following task to a group of sixteen masters students: “Create the plan for a social harvest festival that will reconnect Zurich with its natural ecosystems and grassroots social innovators.”

    The idea was to demonstrate, in practice, [continue …]

  • February 11, 2012

    [ This text is a shortened version of my talk at last month’s conference in Philadelphia on Architecture & Energy; proceedings of that event will be published as a book later this year. Whilst preparing the talk, and this text, I also prepared this Reading List for [continue …]
  • February 10, 2012

    As an exercise, I thought I’d share with you (and Mr Monti) the best writers on my reading list – in the order I’ve read them, not in chronological order.



    ff-score-1024x155.png [continue …]

  • February 8, 2012

    20090810john gorzynski.JPG

    The photograph shows John Gorzynski and his vegetables before a hurricane devastated his family’s farm last Autumn. Nestled in a valley of the Catskills, Gorzynski Ornery Farm is where [continue …]

  • January 21, 2012

    This is my breakfast on my flight back from India on Air France.

    I count at least 20 separate items on the tray that are unlikely to be recycled.

    [continue …]

  • January 18, 2012


    I’ve seen this Virtual Boarding Agent a couple of times now at Orly Airport in Paris. A It’s a life-sized, life-like, two dimensional human figure that talks pleasantly about liquids and gels. It’s spooky, clever, and very well executed [continue …]

  • January 10, 2012


    When the new Italian Prime Minister, Mr. Mario Monti, gave his acceptance speech to the Italian Senate before Christmas, he used the word “growth” 28 times and the word “energy” – well, zero times. Why would this supposed [continue …]

  • December 19, 2011

    When he was sixteen years old, Floor van Keulen made a wall painting in the stairwell of his mother’s beauty salon. For the next 43 years, the artist has worked with the knowledge that most of his site- and time-specific specific works are destined to disappear. Why?

    [continue …]

  • December 11, 2011

    I’d be surprised if many readers of this blog work for the fracking industry. Those charming people spend a lot on lobbying and public relations, sure – but their main aim in life is to remain obscure.

    But food and drink? The branding, the packaging, the communications, the stores, the promotions, [continue …]

  • December 2, 2011

    How best do you help a resilient economy emerge in a region that has one foot in ancient ways and traditions – its other in the world of global universities and nuclear power?

    Bangor01.png Left: “The Hill Farmer” by Bedwyr Williams. Right: a [continue …]

  • November 5, 2011

    Screen shot 2011-11-05 at 15.27.25.png

    There are times when you have to wonder whether ad industry persons totally, er, get it, on the matter of man’s disconnect with nature… and what to do about it.

    This Aigle ad, which I tore out the Air France magazine, [continue …]

  • November 2, 2011

    Hanging out with health system innovators in recent times I’ve been struck by two interesting things. The first is that the buzz in the investor community about health apps is palpable. To feed the hunger, a new incubator called Rock Health, positioning itself as “the seed accelerator for health [continue …]

  • October 31, 2011


    Screen shot 2011-10-26 at 21.21.21.png

    It’s easy for two people to look at the same information – such as this chart (above) about health costs – and perceive totally different things. What I see is an out-of-control Medical Industrial Complex [continue …]

  • October 19, 2011

    Colibris screen shot.png Something special is happening in France. A nationwide campaign will be launched next week by the Colibris movement for the 2012 Presidential Elections – but without a charismatic leader.

    The campaign, instead, is for [continue …]

  • September 30, 2011


    A splendid new book from Monacelli Press marks the coming of age of urban agriculture – at least for the design world. Carrot City: Creating Places for Urban Agriculture is a timely reflection on design and urban food systems, and on [continue …]

  • September 21, 2011

    I was emboldened, upon arriving at the Mayo Clinic ‘s Centre for Innovation last week, to learn that people with deep domain knowledge do not make the best innovators. I concluded that I was therefore well-qualified to [continue …]

  • September 2, 2011

    “Who needs oil when you have rain?” The ad for Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s national energy company, dominates this month’s Icelandair magazine. It sits alongside other ads that feature wild spaces, rugged outdoor clothing, and all-round natural purity. The message is not disguised: Iceland is blessed by massive amounts of clean energy.

    The [continue …]

  • August 9, 2011

    A new book by Alex Prud’homme called The Ripple Effect addresses the “vast and desperately serious subject” of water.

    The author does not hold back: all the world’s water problems are here. The sewage, fertilizers, industrial chemicals, plastics, paint, drugs, and hand soap, among other [continue …]

  • August 2, 2011

    When I arrived at Angsbacka, the site in Sweden of last weekend’s first Future Perfect festival, an alarming array of leaflets was on offer in the foyer : ‘Shamanic De-Armouring’; ‘How To UpGreat Your Life’ or ‘Reach The Temple of your Inner Beauty’; [continue …]

  • July 16, 2011

    wind wall.png
    The image above is a Piezzoelectric skin that could be attached to vertical surfaces on buildings.The skin would generate electricity as wind moved across its tiny hairs. Wind Skin, as the project is called, so enchanted jurors at last week’s [continue …]

  • July 14, 2011

    If you’re in Paris before 24 July a spectacular exhibition called The Fertile City: Towards An Urban Nature is well worth a visit.

    The show’s OTT poster does not over-promise. The exhibition explores nature in the city from multiple perspectives: historical, social, cultural, botanical, ecological. Two [continue …]

  • July 11, 2011

    Today seems to be the day when, once a year in this part of France, every spider in the region spins her best possible web at the same moment.

    Early in the morning, when covered in dew, the whole landscape seems to be dotted with uncountable millions of these amazing structures.


    Now [continue …]

  • June 27, 2011

    Last week I was taught how to sharpen our kitchen knives by a wood carver, Howard Raybould, who’s been honing his technique for 30 years. It’s the most useful skill I’ve acquired since learning how to ride a bike.
    Howard arrived bearing: a wooden board; a [continue …]

  • June 27, 2011

    The day after I celebrated his Kickstarter success with Tyler Caruso, co-founder of Seeing Green, which is about measuring the value of urban agriculture, I read a fascinating piece by Simon Kuper in the FT about the use of data to analyse every tiny aspect of a [continue …]

  • June 23, 2011

    When Jimmy Carbone, co-creator of The Good Beer Seal, was considering running for mayor of his old hometown in Haverhill, Massachusetts, he began to ponder possible new uses for industrial buildings that had fallen in to disuse. Could small resource-sharing breweries be a centerpiece of [continue …]

  • June 21, 2011

    [Stop Press: Polydome has been shortlisted for the 2012 Buckminster Fukller Challenge]

    A few years ago urban farming in developed cities was a fringe topic that few designers or architects thought much about. There were exceptions: we tried hard [but failed] to build a prototype of Natalie Jeremijenko’s Urban [continue …]

  • June 20, 2011

    This was a first for me: witnessing first-hand a Kickstarter project cross the line and go live.
    The happy guy with the phone [in Claire Hartten’s garden in Brooklyn] is Tyler Caruso, joint founder [with Erik Facteau] of Seeing Green: The Value of Urban Agriculture.
    Kicked!.png [continue …]

  • June 14, 2011

    Bucky Pic.png[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 [continue …]

  • May 31, 2011

    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 [continue …]

  • May 30, 2011

    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 [continue …]

  • May 26, 2011

    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 [continue …]

  • May 9, 2011

    Transmission and Distribution %22T&D%22 loss - image.jpg
    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 [continue …]

  • May 5, 2011

    Afbeelding 8.png[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 [continue …]

  • May 3, 2011

    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 [continue …]