The Monticello Dialogues, Part 3 - Design as Celebration with William McDonough

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Once more McDonough takes us on a far-ranging journey into the question of how we can reexamine a fundamental question about what we make. He asks, “What am I trying to accomplish here?” and “Is there another way to do it?” He adds how he and his team enter a design opportunity: “We come at it and say, ‘What is native to this place? What would it mean to rise from the ground here in a way that honors all beings, in a way that’s a celebration of life, instead of a fear of death?’” This deep dialogue gives us much to contemplate regarding an expanded awareness of ecology, intelligence, justice, and celebration. (hosted by Michael Toms)


William McDonough is an anticipatory design architect. But more than that he is a philosopher for the 21st century and is asking some of the most critical questions we should be thinking about in these challenging times. He’s the former Dean of the Architecture Department at the University of Virginia, and was named “Hero of the Planet” by Time magazine. He’s also the winner of three U.S. presidential awards including the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development. 

He is the author with his partner, Michael Braungart, of:

To learn more about the work of William McDonough go to and

    Topics Explored in This Dialogue

    • Why sustainability is important to future generations
    • What you can do to create sustainability in your life
    • What is anticipatory design all about
    • How would the media look if it truly served people
    • How Thomas Jefferson had huge “bandwidth” and was extremely prolific without the use of automated communications devices
    • Why we should design as a celebration and recycle nutrients that provide food for the environment
    • Why it is important to design biodegradable polymers
    • As an example of anticipatory design, the New College in England found a grove of trees expressly planted in 1639 to replace the anticipated rotten beams in the dining hall 300 years in the future
    • Thomas Jefferson was a skillful designer and someone who could think outside convention
    • Why McDonough and Braungart take the words “should” and “must” out of all their work
    • How does sustainability work for China, the most populous nation in the world

      Host: Michael Toms       Interview Date: 5/17/2001      Program Number: 2902

      Music Playlist

      From Album: En-Trance
      Artist: Conrad Praetzel
      1995 Perfect Pitch Music PA-103
      Tracks - Question of Bliss, Waking the Shadows

      From Album: Music in the Age of Jefferson
      Artist: Arcangelo Corelli
      1996 PDI CD 12961
      Track - Sonata in A - Major Op. 5, No. 9 - Tempo di Gavotta 

      From Album: Short Trip Home
      Artist: Edgar Myer
      Sony Classical SK60864
      Track - BT