The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design
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Does going green change the face of design or only its content? The first book to outline principles for the aesthetics of sustainable design, The Shape of Green argues that beauty is inherent to sustainability, for how things look and feel is as important as how they’re made.
In addition to examining what makes something attractive or emotionally pleasing, Hosey connects these questions with practical design challenges. Can the shape of a car make it more aerodynamic and more attractive at the same time? Could buildings be constructed of porous materials that simultaneously clean the air and soothe the skin? Can cities become verdant, productive landscapes instead of wastelands of concrete?
Drawing from a wealth of scientific research, Hosey demonstrates that form and image can enhance conservation, comfort, and community at every scale of design, from products to buildings to cities. Fully embracing the principles of ecology could revolutionize every aspect of design, in substance and in style. Aesthetic attraction isn’t a superficial concern — it’s an environmental imperative. Beauty could save the planet.
Victor Papanek considered this exploitative: “Cuteness is the enemy of beauty.” Apparently, however, it’s not the enemy of productivity. A 2009 University of Virginia study found that viewing puppies and kittens actually improves task-oriented performance; “the tenderness elicited by something ‘cute,’” the authors found, “is more than just a positive affective feeling state— it can literally make people more physically tender in their motor behavior.” Understanding human instincts can expand
litter or landfill, how prudent have we been? “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us,” wrote Rachel Carson half a century ago, “the less taste we shall have for destruction.” When we treasure something, we’re less prone to kill it, so desire fuels preservation. Love it or lose it. In this sense, the old mantra could be replaced by a new one: If it’s not beautiful, it’s not sustainable. Aesthetic attraction is not a superficial
discerning exactly which qualities enhance and express life—that is, he means to dissect magic. The Meaning of “Life” In A Theory of Architecture, Nikos Salingaros expands on Alexander’s ideas by rationalizing design as a “scientific problem.” Structural order, or coherent composition, is governed by “a set of rules that are akin to the laws of physics.” Drawing on a breadth of knowledge from biology, neurology, geometry, mathematics, physiology, psychology, and information theory, Salingaros
171 172 | Shape of Green of the Moon, the astonishing thing about the Earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive,” announced biologist Lewis Thomas, who felt that life’s uniformity is more dramatic than its diversity. “The outstanding spin-off from space research is not new technology,” wrote biologist James Lovelock. “The real bonus has been that for the first time “The photographs of the Earth from we have had a chance to look at the Earth from space, and the information gained from
Experience.” Communications of the ACM (1999). Kunstler, James Howard. The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape. New York: Free Press, 1994. Lanham, Richard A. The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There. New York: Oxford University Press, 1949. Lidwell, William, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler. Universal Principles