If we love it, will it last? Lance Hosey’s Inspirational Book on Green Design

Lance Hosey’s new book, Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design, asks how to make sustainability not just likeable but loveable.

If we love it, will it last? This is a question at the heart of architect Lance Hosey’s new book, Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design (Island Press, 2012). Because the book is just out I want to offer you a quick peek, as Hosey starts talking about it; his first talk since the book launched this week was at SPUR in San Francisco. And in the interest of full disclosure, I must also point out that Lance, who is CEO of the nonprofit GreenBlue, an organization dedicated to making products more sustainable, is also a friend. He and I co-authored Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design five years ago.


There’s an ongoing disconnect between what is perceived as “good design” (like the Vanity Fair “A-list” published in 2010) and “green design,” as Hosey points out; he documented this when he polled for the readers of his Architect blog in response to the Vanity Fair survey of architects. The disconnect, to him, is more than something to lament; it’s actually something to mine. He writes:

“Following the principles of ecology to their logical conclusion could result in revolutions of form as well as content in every industry at every scale, from the hand to the land. Reversing the devastation of nature requires reversing the devastation of culture, for the problem of the planet is first and foremost a human problem. We create the crisis, but we can correct it—by appealing to both morality and sensuality, to both sense and spirit, together. Designers can promote sustainability by embracing what they have already cared about most: the basic shape of things.”

The author reminds us of the wisdom of E.O. Wilson in Consilience, a book that was formative for many people active in the fields of sustainability and sustainable design. Its poetic appeal to break down the barrier between art and science offers a powerful vision for a unified world where humans function as the interconnected part of nature that we are.

John Elkington, founder of SustainAbility, says this about The Shape of Green, “It’s tomorrow’s great design challenge: how to make sustainability not just likeable but loveable; and not just efficient but beautiful, sensual, sexy. Lance Hosey is an inspirational guide to a future we can’t wait to embrace.”

For those of us who are weary of (but keep reading, because we must) the books about climate change, ecosystem catastrophes, toxins in us and our world, the poisoning of the oceans, and each new “idea” our species has with known and unknown consequences that cannot be undone (think fracking), The Shape of Green is a positive thesis. It might even inspire hope in the most pessimistic readers.

Kira Gould, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, is director of communications for William McDonough + Partners, an architecture firm with studios in Charlottesville, Virginia, and San Francisco. She is also co-author of Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design.

Categories: Sustainability