digital edition

Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design

By Kira Gould and Lance Hosey. Bainbridge Island, Washington: Ecotone Publishing, 2007, 234 pages, $24.95.

Reviewed by David Sokol

Seeking to forge a link between gender and the contemporary sustainability movement, Gould and Hosey faced some resistance. “Some people told us the topic was passé. ‘Who talks about the sexes anymore?’” they write in their preface. “Some people we respect declined to discuss the book or said the topic had no interest for them. People close to people we respect said they should avoid us.”

Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design
Image courtesy Ecotone Publishing
Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design
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Scores of subjects, both women and men, did not. Gould and Hosey analyze sustainable design with some of the biggest names in that and corresponding fields, including space architect Constance Adams, Interface CEO Ray Anderson, landscape designer Julie Bargmann, South Bronx community activist Marjora Carter, professor Dolores Hayden, Not So Big advocate Sarah Susanka, and Metropolis editor Susan Szenasy.
With their help, the introductory chapters of Women in Green make the most provocative case for the feminine orientation of green design, drawing an explicit line from women’s nurturing attitudes and holistic thinking to their pivotal roles in environmentalism and design since the days of Jane Jacobs and Rachel Carson. In the extensively reported prose, question-and-answer roundtables, and case studies that follow, discussions focused on sustainability’s ins and outs are informed by a feminine sensibility but certainly not stamped by it. In that sense Women in Green draws a comparison to architect Jack Travis’s 10 principles of black cultural design: These are both provocative examinations of gender and culture in architecture, but their findings are useful to everyone.   

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