At TED2010, ESRI President Jack Dangermond Spreads a New Idea: GeoDesign

He Says the Concept Enables Architects, Urban Planners, and Others to Design with Nature and Geography in Mind

Creating a more ecofriendly, efficient, and safer world calls for instilling geographic science into wise design, ESRI president Jack Dangermond said last week at the TED2010 conference in Long Beach, California.

Watch the video

Dangermond introduced the audience to the concept of GeoDesign, which in simple terms means designing with nature in mind by integrating geospatial technologies into the design process. This gives architects, urban planners, and others the geographic information and analysis they need to design well.

He compared beautiful Japanese temples, homes, and gardens—created by master designers who take nature into account—to sprawling, suburban housing tracts built with little thought to the surrounding environment.

“Japan is famous for the master designers who harmonized the use of land and structures with the environment around them, finding the right balance between building and nature,” Dangermond said. “Contrast this with the sprawling, monotonous suburbia so familiar today. It’s a kind of crime against nature.”

Dangermond joined a roster of diverse and influential speakers at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference, February 10–13. TED is a private, nonprofit foundation that hosts conferences to explore and promote what its Web site says are “ideas worth spreading.”

A landscape architect by training, Dangermond founded ESRI in 1969 with a vision that computer mapping and analysis could help people design a better future. Under Dangermond’s leadership, that vision has continued to guide ESRI in creating cutting-edge geographic information system (GIS) and GeoDesign technologies used in many industries to make a difference worldwide.

Photo: TED / James Duncan Davidson

A student of the influential landscape architect Ian McHarg, Dangermond praised McHarg’s pioneering concepts in ecological planning and explained how those ideas mirrored those put into practice by the Japanese master designers.

Dangermond said he believes that designing with nature, or GeoDesign, with all the best geospatial technology behind it, is the next evolutionary step in the design field.

“GeoDesign is both an old idea and a new idea. It reopens our minds and hearts; it puts in our hands the means to achieve what the Japanese masters did so many years ago—designing with geographic knowledge, thus living harmoniously with nature.”

[Source: ESRI press release]

Jack Dangermond Talks About GeoDesign at TED 2010

ESRI founder and president Jack Dangermond spoke about the promise of GeoDesign at the annual Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference earlier today in Long Beach, California (video).  Dangermond was part of Session 5: Provocation, and shared the session with a diverse group of speakers, including former CIA covert operations officer Valerie Plame Wilson, and futurist and Whole Earth Catalog creator Stewart Brand.

Watch the video

Following is a summary of Dangermond’s TED Talk:

“Japan is famous for the master designers who harmonized the use of land and structures with the environment around them, finding the right balance between building and nature. Contrast this with the sprawling, monotonous suburbia so familiar today. It’s a kind of crime against nature.

“In his book Design with Nature, Ian McHarg showed us how we could use soils, geology, vegetation, and other data to make more rational and responsible designs—what the Japanese masters internalized during their site visits. Design with Nature inspired me to create Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), where we build the technology to implement McHarg’s vision.

Jack Dangermond at TED2010, Session 5, "Provocation," Thursday, February 11, 2010, in Long Beach, California. Credit: TED / James Duncan Davidson

“I believe that ‘designing with nature’, or GeoDesign, is our next evolutionary step. GeoDesign is both an old idea and a new idea. It reopens our minds and hearts; it puts in our hands the means to achieve what the Japanese masters did so many years ago—designing with geographic knowledge, thus living harmoniously with nature.”

Bill Davenhall at TEDMED: Your Health Depends on Where You Live

About this talk
Where you live: It impacts your health as much as diet and genes do, but it’s not part of your medical records. At TEDMED, Bill Davenhall shows how overlooked government geo-data (from local heart-attack rates to toxic dumpsite info) can mesh with mobile GPS apps to keep doctors in the loop. Call it “geo-medicine.”

About Bill Davenhall
Bill Davenhall wants to improve physicians’ diagnostic techniques by collecting each patient’s geographic and environmental data, and merging it with their medical records

Video: GIS Pioneer Roger Tomlinson

In this short video from August 2007, GIS pioneer Roger Tomlinson visits DMTI Spatial in Canada. He discusses principles of GIS and how they have changed the world. DMTI Spatial CTO John Fisher discusses the pervasiveness of GIS in today’s business world.