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The Green Imperative

Ecology and Ethics in Design and Architecture

Victor Papanek

Whether it's horror at plastic littering the world's beaches, or despair at the melting of the polar ice caps, the world is gradually waking up to the impending climate disaster. In The Green Imperative, Papanek argues for design that addresses these issues head on. This means using materials that can be recycled and re-used, no more pointless packaging, thinking about how products make us feel and engage all our senses, putting nature at the heart of design, working at a smaller scale, rejecting aesthetics for their own sake, and thinking before we buy.

First published at the close of the 20th century, the book offered a plethora of honest advice, clear examples and withering critique, laying out the flaws and opportunities of the design world at that time. A quarter of a century on, Papanek's lucid prose has lost none of its verve, and the problems he highlights have only become more urgent, giving today's reader both a fascinating historical perspective on the issues at hand and a blueprint for how they might be solved.

What is the purpose of design and architecture? How can designers forge a more sustainable path? Why must we all demand better? The Green Imperative is an urgent call to arms to consider the impact our choices have on the environment before it’s too late.

Based on decades of experience as a designer and educator, Victor Papanek makes a compelling case for more meaningful design at a human scale, using examples from packaging to parking lots, playing cards to playgrounds. This means designing for the long term, using less and re-using more, and sharing resources.

By busting the ‘bigger is better’ myth and challenging the idea of design progress, Papanek guides us all – designers, architects and, crucially, consumers – towards a greener future. His clear prose is as passionate about the possibility for change as it is insightful and instructive.

With 141 illustrations, 26 in colour

Thames and Hudson 
352 pages
130 x 197mm
Published 05/08/2021