I have seen Mr. McDonough speak on two other occasions but I have never seen him more passionate and energized. He spoke about how his upbringing shaped his view of the world, about his early years as an Architect in New York, and about his current work, both with his architectural firm and with Michael Braungart. He spoke powerfully about the need for us to move our thinking from “efficiency” to “effectiveness”. He laid out how the guardian of government, though essential at this time, will never be able to move as quickly as commerce. The answer is not more and more regulations, but to put commerce at the service of the environment by creating buildings that produce energy and water and fresh air, by manufacturing products that are infinitely recyclable, compostable and, hell, edible.
I told him later how impressed I was by his presentation, even as compared to seeing him previously, and he responded that he was “really excited to be back in New York.” This is where he started his own firm in the 80′s, only leaving to run the architecture program at UVA, where his firm remains. As John Mandyck of Carrier noted in his introduction, McDonough’s offices for the Environmental Defense Fund here in NYC were completed in 1984, 14 years before LEED 1.0 hit the streets. And his talk was peppered with calls for us, the people in the room, to step up and challenge our clients and the industry to move to this new model of manufacturing products and designing buildings that are net positive in their contributions to the environment, the next industrial revolution.
Were you there the morning of September 29th to hear McDonough’s keynote? If you were we’d love for you to leave your impressions in the comments to this post.