New Book | Design for an Empathic World

Design for an Empathic World

Reconnecting to People, Nature, and Self





Washington, DC (October 3, 2013) — For half a century, Sim Van der Ryn has been at the forefront of designing in harmony with the natural and human environment. He has been called “a visionary architect” by The San Francisco Chronicle, “the Albus Dumbledore of green architecture” by The New York Times, and “mentor” by everyone from architecture students to Wall Street bankers.


Design for an Empathic World: Reconnecting People, Nature, and Self (Publication Date: October 3, 2013) recounts his own journey of discovery and calls for architects and designers to think more holistically about the effects of their work on themselves, the people who will use the space, and the earth. Richly illustrated with never-before-published watercolors that represent his discovery of empathic design, the book paints the picture of a brighter future for all of us.


Van der Ryn argues that “green building” has become complacent, settling for cosmetic fixes that don’t actually do much to reduce human impact on the environment or improve quality of life. To move forward, he says, we need to teach architecture students in a more collaborative and holistic manner that incorporates an understanding of ecological and biological processes and is grounded in the point of view of the people who will end up using a space.


By looking beyond the much-touted but limited LEED certification system to a Living Building standard, Van der Ryn encompasses every stage and facet of a building’s existence. He offers lessons he has learned over the course of his career, including through his involvement in Berkeley’s People’s Park, developing a more supportive way to teach architecture students, discovering watercolor and yoga, and participating in his own and others’ quests for one’s inner truth.


Part memoir, part case studies, and part meditation on humanity, Design for an Empathic World charts a path towards a more nourishing kind of architecture. Van der Ryn’s stories will inspire people to embrace a more wholesome relationship with the buildings they create and inhabit.



Sim Van der Ryn is President of The Ecological Design Collaborative. He has been at the forefront of integrating ecological principles into the built environment, creating multi-scale solutions driven by nature’s intelligence for over forty years. Van der Ryn has served as California’s first energy-conscious State Architect, authored seven influential books, including Ecological Design, and won numerous honors and awards for his leadership and innovation in architecture and planning. He was a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, for over thirty years.