Designing With Nature In Mind with Sim Van der Ryn

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Sim Van der Ryn has been a leading proponent of the green building movement (even before it was known as that), and for more than a half a century has been leading the way to a more regenerative, resilient, and sustainable future. It is his hope that society will increasingly acknowledge the critical value to our health and well-being by our connection to nature, and that designing in collaboration with nature will become a major tool toward creating a vital new architecture for an empathic world. He has experienced a psychological condition in his students that is called nature deficit disorder. He says, “I’ve experienced it with Berkeley students in their 20s who, when we’re out in the forest or at the ocean, I could see were fearful. They’d never been in a natural environment...We are designed as humans to be part of nature and, if we paid attention to it, the architecture of the inner self tells us that.” (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Sim Van der Ryn is an architect, author, and educator. He is President of the Ecological Design Collaborative and has, for over forty years, been at the forefront of integrating ecological principles into the built environment, creating multi-scale solutions driven by nature’s intelligence. He served as California’s first energy conscious state architect and is emeritus professor of architecture and environmental design at the University of California, Berkeley. He was founder of the Farallones Institute, now known as the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center.

His books include:

To learn more about Sim Van der Ryn’s work go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • What is a “nature deficit disorder”
  • How are architecture students now being taught using the competitive model
  • What is the integrative design model that he uses with young architects
  • What was the participative design of the People’s Park in Berkeley in the 1960s
  • How did he redesign college dormitories
  • What are the elements of skilled leadership
  • How the artist Christo got cooperation among various factions to build his fence
  • What is the difference between sustainable and regenerative architecture
  • What are the five principles of eco-design
  • What is the price that is paid by the living world for what we design

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 1/22/2014   Program Number: 3495

Music Playlist

From Album: Planet Passion
Artist: Ancient Future
2001 Ancient Future #AF - 2010

Opening Essay: Track 01 Simsimay Panima
Music Break 1: Track 04 I met Her In the Medowe.b
Music Break 2: Track 05 Ocean of Love
Music Break 3: Track 05 "Ocean of Love (Reprise)