Restorative Design

Leah O's picture


Last week, I had a wonderful conversation with a lovely lady named Fiona. She is actively working to organize an ecovillage on 125 acres in Sandy just 40 minutes from her current home in Portland, Oregon, USA. We talked for hours discussing the merits of sustainable living, travel, consumption and community. 

The conversation began when she asked me about my dreams and passions. I told her about my plan of some day repurposing a derelict building (in my mind said building is a decommissioned barn) into a cathedral like living space. I explained that the goal of this project would be to only use second hand materials--preferably trash; thus, not only reducing my overall building waste and consumption of raw/natural materials, but literally removing (via transition) garbage from the earth throughout the process. 

Fiona, suddenly got very excited and explained the rapidly growing idea of "rejuvenation design." At first I didn't understand. What does rejuvenation have to do with sustainability? To me rejuvenation seemed like a quick aesthetic fix, but in reality rejuvenation is so much more. The word "rejuvenate" is a transitive verb which, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary means "to make young or youthful again; give new vigor to;  to restore to an original or new state."

I had never heard the term "rejuvenate" applied to the sustainability movement. But as Fiona went on to explain, the idea of "rejuvenation", in fact, takes us rather far beyond the common conception/misconception of sustainability (self-sufficient, leave no trace, do no evil) but back to a place of restorative living--where everything we touch is made better in our presence--not destroyed or just "left unharmed;" where the term "low impact" is replaced by "positive impact."

Thus the practice of restorative design and living takes buildings out of a dark place with negative connotations into a new light--where we can both design and build living, breathing buildings, spaces that can make real positive change


When I consider every thing that grows

Holds in perfection but a little moment,

That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows

Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;

When I perceive that men as plants increase,

Cheered and check'd even by the self-same sky,

Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,

And wear their brave state out of memory;

Then the conceit of this inconstant stay

Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,

Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,

To change your day of youth to sullied night;

And all in war with Time for love of you,

As he takes from you, I engraft you new.

Sonnet 15, William Shakespeare


Want to learn more about restorative design? 

Check out Michael Pawlyn's sweet TED talk about Restorative Design and the closed-loop system


and read the transcript of Stephen R. Kellert's beautiful speech about Restorative Environmental Design:



Denise Nuel's picture

Sometimes some conversations give us lot of ideas and positive energy which makes us do new things in life and more forward.

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james maryann29's picture

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