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Towards a possibilist future with architect Michael Pawlyn

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Jun 01, 2022 By WGSN Insider
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How can we create built environments that promote mutualistic ways of living that are better for people and the planet? Take a possibilist mindset, says Michael Pawlyn, founding director of Exploration Architecture.

The TED Talk star and biomimicry expert is also co-author of Flourish: Design Paradigms for Our Planetary Emergency, with Singapore-based urbanist, curator and writer, Sarah Ichioka. It’s a persuasive read that tackles existing orthodoxies around sustainability and posits real-world design and architecture solutions and strategies to move towards a future where the planet can truly flourish.

Central to the book is the argument for a paradigm shift, as inspired by the late systems thinker Donella Meadows, and a move away from conventional sustainability to regenerative design and development.

Michael Pawlyn joins us this week alongside Bethan Ryder, Executive Editorial Director at WGSN, and Lisa White, Creative Director at WGSN. We discuss possibilism as the future and find out why it’s so important, how to create built environments that promote biodiversity and whether we could find a solution simply by designing for other species.

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Proximity fuelled design

“There’s loads of evidence to show that we are supreme collaborators – we’ve got an amazing capacity for altruism and empathy and so on. We are happier, healthier and we live longer if we are in closely knit communities. 

“That leads to much more transformative models like the 15-minute city, which is being pushed by the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. The idea there is that you can design cities or rework existing cities so that people have access to pretty much everything they need within a 15-minute walk or cycle.”
– Michael Pawlyn, Director, Exploration Architecture

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Multi-species thinking

“We need to think more inclusively and with empathy about other humans in the world and how they live and how they see the world. But we also have to think more inclusively with empathy about how other species – if they’re animals or vegetables – and how they see and live in the world because we need diversity in things in order to survive.

“As with inclusive design, if you make the world a better place for some of the most fragile species, you make it better for everyone.”
– Lisa White, Creative Director, WGSN

To hear the full discussion tune into episode 51 of our Create Tomorrow podcast, Why Possibilism is the Future with Architect Michael Pawlyn, on Anchor, Apple and Spotify.

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