Charlottesville full of smart, green thinkers

As I wrote earlier in the week, this is Design Week, and on Tuesday I popped over to the CCDC for one of the Design Week events—a lunchtime talk by Pete O’Shea and Lance Hosey. O’Shea is a partner in Siteworks, a landscape architecture firm, and Hosey was until recently a director at McDonough, and is now writing a book. They’re smart dudes. They know a lot about design. I came away feeling lucky that I live in a town where people are doing such good thinking about sustainability.

A few choice ideas from the talk:

1. Culture doesn’t just impact nature (streams, woods, icecaps); it also impacts the built environment. In other words, we’re not just fouling the natural environment but also the places we live and work. This is one example that Hosey brought up: a village in China whose principle business is dealing with e-waste.

2. Part of the problem with traditional architecture is that it designs buildings separately from their surroundings—as though they were hermetically sealed machines. Actually, they’re part of the surroundings, and permeable to them, since they take in resources and put out waste.

3. The idea of "restoring" nature is often irrelevant, since we don’t know what we’d actually be restoring. We can’t put Charlottesville back into a pristine wooded state. And an island in the Anacostia River near D.C., for which Hosey and O’Shea designed a nature center, is itself made by humans out of dredged material, so "restoring" it would mean erasing it. Our goal should be to balance human and ecological concerns—to recognize the compromised situation we’re in, and go forward from there in the best possible way.

4. A model of architects and landscape architects working closely together, as O’Shea and Hosey do, may hold promise in that direction.

Who’s the local green pioneer who inspires you most? Is it a farmer, a philosopher, a family who line-dries its laundry?

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