Design for a Vulnerable Planet
by Frederick Steiner
University of Texas Press, April 2011
We inhabit a vulnerable planet. Thedevastation caused by natural disasters such as the southern Asian tsunami,Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and the earthquakes in China's Sichuan province,Haiti, and Chile—as well as the ongoing depletion and degradation of theworld's natural resources caused by a burgeoning human population—have made itclear that "business as usual" is no longer sustainable. We need tofind ways to improve how we live on this planet while minimizing our impact onit. Design for a Vulnerable Planet sounds a call for designers andplanners to go beyond traditional concepts of sustainability toward innovativenew design that fosters regeneration and resilience.
Drawing on his own and others'experiences across three continents, Frederick Steiner advocates designpractice grounded in ecology and democracy and informed by critical regionalismand reflection. He begins by establishing the foundation for a more ecologicalapproach to planning and design, adopting a broad view of ecology as encompassinghuman and natural, urban and wild environments. Steiner explores precedents forhuman ecological design provided by architect Paul Cret, landscape architectIan McHarg, and developer George Mitchell while discussing their planning forthe University of Texas campus, the Lake Austin watershed, and The Woodlands.Steiner then focuses on emerging Texas urbanism and extends his discussion tobroader considerations beyond the Lone Star State, including regionalism,urbanism, and landscape in China and Italy. He also examines the lessons to belearned from human and natural disasters such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, andthe BP oil spill. Finally, Steiner offers a blueprint for designing with natureto help heal the planet's vulnerabilities.