The Monticello Dialogues, Part 4 - The Rebirth of the Commons with William McDonough

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Imagine for a moment, a beautiful future, free from poverty, war and suffering. Where do you see yourself living in that beautiful world? For many of us we see a bucolic life in the country. Anticipatory design architect William McDonough sees that healthy harmonious future in the city. Really. Named a hero of the planet in 1999 by Time Magazine, McDonough envisions a post-sprawl future where the human enterprise is more compact and more abundant and more fun. He still sees cars in our future, but tomorrow's cars won't pollute more efficiently, they will be effective silent runners, releasing POSITIVE emissions that support life. And public transport (read trains) will double as a power utility. McDonough's celebration of the city is a sign of the positive transformation of culture, a culture where we can be people with lives again, neither consumers nor units in a planner's design algorithm, nor fields in a security database. In this part of the six-part special series recorded at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, McDonough offers a fresh path out of the history of mindless timefullness. (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

    • How your life will be changed for the better by the next industrial revolution
    • What early design decisions make Mahattan livable
    • How can cities become healthy, sustainable places to live
    • How can cities become restorers of nature? Eco-feeders
    • What happened to "the commons"
    • What is the vast commons we all own and barely use

    Host: Michael Toms     Interview Date: 4/12/2002     Program Number: 2973

    Music Playlist

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


    From Album: Dig
    Artist: Rob Mounsey and Flying Monkey Orchestra
    1998 Sona Gaia ND-62761
    Tracks - Three Moons, Mr. Graffito 

    From Album: The Crossing
    Artist: Sanjay Mishra Trio
    1992 Frontier Records FR 0011
    Track - Rendezvous