The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design

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Island Press, Jun 11, 2012 - Architecture - 208 pages
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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.


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"The Shape of Green" made me see sustainability differently. I love this passage: "Long-term value is impossible without sensory appeal, because if design doesn’t inspire, it’s destined to be discarded. 'In the end,' writes Senegalese poet Baba Dioum, 'we conserve only what we love.' We don’t love something because it’s nontoxic and biodegradable—we love it because it moves the head and the heart."  

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Hands down, the best book on sustainable design that I've read. Someone should have written this book years ago.


1 The Sustainability of Beauty
2 The Aesthetic Imperative
3 Three Principles
4 Many Senses
5 Ecology and Imagery
6 The Animation of Everyday Things
7 The Architecture of Difference
8 The Natural Selection of Cities
9 Visions of Earth
A Beauty Manifesto
Selected References
Illustration and Photograph Credits
Board of Directors

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About the author (2012)

Lance Hosey, a nationally recognized architect, designer, and author, is Chief Sustainability Officer with the global design leader RTKL. He is a former Director with William McDonough + Partners and co-author, with Kira Gould, of Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design (2007).

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