In Designing for Hope, University of Melbourne’s Dr Dominique Hes and University of Pretoria associate professor Chrisna Du Plessis provide a comprehensive overview of a deeper, biophilic approach to the built environment.

Starting from first principles of why it is important to transition from an approach of “less bad” outcomes to one centred on “more good” outcomes, and then exploring the various dimensions of the ecological world view, it maps out a pathway for transforming both practice and practitioners.

It’s a beautiful book, with photography used liberally to enhance and explain the various topics. An international range of case studies from both the developed and developing world shows that embedding the ecological worldview into projects is achievable at both the small project scale through to multi-million dollar developments like Singapore’s Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital.

Numerous diagrams provide a visual tool for grasping approaches like positive development, permaculture, the Living Building Challenge, biomimicry and regenerative design and development.

The authors have also explained some of the finer grain elements, such as the Tragedy of the Commons, designing biological systems or “living machines” to replace mechanical systems, and the many proven benefits of human-nature relationships.

The final part of the book provides tools that can be used in transforming practice, and also suggestions for how practitioners can transform themselves to become agents for positive evolution. These include both the professional actions such as becoming a tactical urbanist, through to personal actions such as embracing the Slow Food movement or undertaking random acts of kindness and “senseless acts of beauty”.

“To be able to cause ripples, one first has to drop a pebble in the pond, and the pebble we need to drop is to live every day according to the values of the ecological worldview,” the book states.

“One of the values of the ecological worldview is responsibility: we are responsible for the impact of our actions, as well as the wellbeing of ourselves and other beings and living systems with which we are in relationship. A second core value is integrity – to live and work in a way that is true to your beliefs and values. The third core belief is positive reciprocity, which is not just about reciprocating in kind, but about reciprocating in a way that is of benefit to and advances the relationship between self and extended self.”

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