The Eco-Design Movement

By Barry Katz / Published by Dwell
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Manifesto: Bruce Sterling, “Viridian Design Speech” (1998)

Like an endangered species, green design has a fragile hold on life. True, all the design and architecture schools are teaching it, Wal-Mart is marketing it, and venture capitalists are investing in it. But it had better be more than that; it had better become the movement to end all movements or we will all be facing what the self-described "former next president of the United States" has bluntly called "an inconvenient truth."

Although as a movement eco-design is still relatively fresh and unformed, some emerging trends can already be discerned. First, there is what might be called the moralistic approach: Be less bad. Get rid of your SUV and buy a Prius. The problem here is that, according to, a minimum of 50 to 60 percent of the lifetime energy consumption of a car goes into its manufacture and shipping, so this may translate into feel-a-little-too-good-a-little-too-late. At the other end of the spectrum, William McDonough and Michael Braungart are trying to design buildings that are not just "energy efficient," but net energy producers.

Eco-design’s most colorful prophet is Bruce Sterling, author of an unending stream of Viridian manifestos. Sterling’s bottom line? We must ditch the bad habits of the past, and create a new "viridian" green future.


Barry Katz


Barry Katz–Dwell's beloved Father Time figure, who price-checked modernist icons in our March 2007 issue–returns with a century long laundry list of sustainability flashpoints. He makes every hour count as a consulting professor at Stanford University, a fellow at Ideo, and a prolific writer and author, most recently of The Tennessee Valley Authority: Design and Persuasion from Princeton Architectural Press.

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