Poet to Architect: Remaking the way we see things

In 1996, when poet Lisa Williams began working for architect William McDonough and German chemist Michael Braungart as they wrote their book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, she didn’t know much about environmentalism or ecology. All that was about to change. As Williams helped craft the language of the book, its ideas about the creative processes of nature and how humans can redesign industries using nature as a model began to ignite her imagination.

“I was tremendously inspired by their revelatory description of nature,” says Williams, a former MFA student at UVA, who now teaches poetry at Centre College in Kentucky, “as well as by particular images and pieces of information I came across.”

Cradle to Cradle goes far beyond the idea of recycling and reuse, advocating instead for the complete elimination of waste in the manufacturing process– its title is a take on “cradle-to-grave analysis,” the study of a product’s life-cycle. For example, the book itself is “treeless,” made of a polypropylene synthetic that looks and feels like paper, and which can be as easily recycled as a yogurt container.

In essence, the book embodies its premise– that designers can create products, manufacturing systems, buildings, and developments that mine the intelligent designs of nature– such as nutrient recycling and the unique power of the sun– to allow commerce and nature to benefit from each other. Read more

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