Land Use Vitality: The Human-Nature Connection in Design & Development


Although I normally blog about only those resources that can be downloaded for free, I am making an exception with this post and the next post in order to share what I view as two must-read books.  One of these must-read books is Stephen Kellert’s Building for Life: Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection (Island Press 2005).


Kellert is the Tweedy Ordway Professor of Social Ecology at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, as well as the Co-Director of the Hixon Center for Urban Ecology.  The University of Louisville was fortunate to have Professor Kellert give the keynote lecture at a Fall 2007 symposium on Children, Nature, and Land Use, sponsored by the Center for Land Use and Environmental Responsibility.


Building for Life synthesizes research on the role of experience with nature in human development and well-being with analysis of the potential for urban design and land use to disconnect us from nature or to connect us to nature.  Professor Kellert makes the case that low-impact, organic, and vernacular environmental design promotes biophilic values and the ethics of sustainability.  The book’s abstract appears below: 


Sustainable design has made great strides in recent years; unfortunately, it still falls short of fully integrating nature into our built environment. Through a groundbreaking new paradigm of "restorative environmental design," award-winning author Stephen R. Kellert proposes a new architectural model of sustainability.  In Building For Life, Kellert examines the fundamental interconnectedness of people and nature, and how the loss of this connection results in a diminished quality of life.  This thoughtful new work illustrates how architects and designers can use simple methods to address our innate needs for contact with nature. Through the use of natural lighting, ventilation, and materials, as well as more unexpected methodologies-the use of metaphor, perspective, enticement, and symbol-architects can greatly enhance our daily lives. These design techniques foster intellectual development, relaxation, and physical and emotional well-being. In the works of architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen, Cesar Pelli, Norman Foster, and Michael Hopkins, Kellert sees the success of these strategies and presents models for moving forward. Ultimately, Kellert views our fractured relationship with nature as a design problem rather than an unavoidable aspect of modern life, and he proposes many practical and creative solutions for cultivating a more rewarding experience of nature in our built environment.