We inhabit a vulnerable planet. The devastation 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 the world's natural resources caused by a burgeoning human population—have made it clear that "business as usual" is no longer sustainable. We need to find ways to improve how we live on this planet while minimizing our impact on it. Design for a Vulnerable Planet sounds a call for designers and planners to go beyond traditional concepts of sustainability toward innovative new design that fosters regeneration and resilience.
Drawing on his own and others' experiences across three continents, Frederick Steiner advocates design practice grounded in ecology and democracy and informed by critical regionalism and reflection. He begins by establishing the foundation for a more ecological approach to planning and design, adopting a broad view of ecology as encompassing human and natural, urban and wild environments. Steiner explores precedents for human ecological design provided by architect Paul Cret, landscape architect Ian McHarg, and developer George Mitchell while discussing their planning for the University of Texas campus, the Lake Austin watershed, and The Woodlands. Steiner then focuses on emerging Texas urbanism and extends his discussion to broader considerations beyond the Lone Star State, including regionalism, urbanism, and landscape in China and Italy. He also examines the lessons to be learned from human and natural disasters such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the BP oil spill. Finally, Steiner offers a blueprint for designing with nature to help heal the planet's vulnerabilities.