Sim Van der Ryn

Author, Architect, Teacher, Visionary

An architect designs how you live, how you move in your house, and even how you connect with nature and with culture. Do you gossip with the neighbors on your front porch? Do you throw the windows open in spring? Do you have huge parties in your great room? Do you cook all summer long on your back deck?

Congress declared that it was no longer “us” against “them,” but all of us sharing this incredible planet. And in so doing, Congress helped deepen the soul of our nation.

The decisions an architect makes in designing your house impacts your behavior. And a good architect will consider how the living world works in making his or her design decisions. Instead of designing to dominate the environment, a good architect finds ways of mimicking natural processes and living in harmony with them. I call this ecologic.

Congress works the same way, except on a grand scale. With foresight, Congress can improve all of our lives—not just yours and mine, but the lives of the smallest creatures to the mega-charismatic animals. In 1973, Congress did just that. When it passed the Endangered Species Act, Congress decided that we, as Americans, wouldn’t try to dominate species to the point where we would let them go extinct. Instead, we’d find ways of living in harmony.

In a sense, Congress broke down the barriers between humans and nature. Congress declared that it was no longer “us” against “them,” but all of us sharing this incredible planet. And in so doing, Congress helped deepen the soul of our nation.

About the same time, I began a lifetime of breaking down the barriers between where we live and nature. Some call me the founder of eco-architecture and design. As the state architect for California in the 1970s, I introduced the concept of ecological design into major building projects. I showed that a truly beautiful building, a building with soul, was one that coexists with its surroundings.

As a Californian, I know the Endangered Species Act has been especially important to protecting our wildlife. With the second highest number of imperiled species in the country, we Californians must be particularly careful to consider imperiled wildlife before building. And for my clients, having an endangered species in the neighborhood does not diminish value; it enhances their experience.

Living, as I do, not far from Point Reyes National Seashore, I can’t think of anything greater than sharing my own neighborhood with leatherback sea turtles, Coho salmon, California red-legged frogs, salt marsh harvest mice, stellar sea lions, humpback whales, southern sea otters, and our endangered local oysters in Drake’s Estero.

I view our Endangered Species Act as a testament to our continued ability to wonder at the natural world.


Download the entire book A Wild Success here.