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From Eco-Cities to Living Machines: Principles of Ecological Design Paperback – April 18, 1994

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"If these Living Machines of John Todd's succeed in creating an immune system for truly cultured ecologies, then we really will have a new age. We've glimpsed its science; now all we have to do is envision its appropriately symbiotic politics."
-William Irwin Thompson

"He [John Todd] is a visionary, with an uncanny knack for ecology. He is as much artist as scientist, but his medium is biology."
—Donnella Meadows, Harrowsmith Magazine

"We recognize his [John Todd's] pioneering work in developing Solar Aquatics, and environmentally responsible family of technologies for wastewater purification and reclamation."
—William Reilley, Past Directory of the Environmental Protection Agency, presenting the first Chico Mendes Memorial Award to John Todd.

About the Author

Biologist Dr. John Todd and writer Nancy Jack Todd have been honored with major global environmental awards, including the Threshold and Environmental Programme Award. Nancy Jack Todd publishes Annuals of Earth for the Center for the Restoration of Water at Ocean Arks International and writes widely about international environmental affairs.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books; 2 Sub edition (April 18, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556431503
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556431500
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #950,995 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Brown on October 7, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book was a little disappointing. It's a re-write of their earlier book, with some new material. The thing I keep looking for in the literature on Living Machines is some kind of prescription, "if the purpose of your machine is x, then assemble y, z, and w." But maybe it can't be done that way: maybe what the Todds were doing was just to find as many different organisms as they could, and mix them all together, hoping that the system would evolve in not too long a time into the thing that was wanted. Can't be called engineering that way, but maybe a new term is necessary for this technique.
BTW, the drawings in the book are excellent.
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Format: Paperback
John Todd (b. 1939) is a biologist working in the field of ecological design, and this 1994 book was co-written with his wife Nancy (who has also written A Safe and Sustainable World: The Promise Of Ecological Design). This book is an updating (with much material copied literally word-for-word) of their earlier book, Bioshelters, Ocean Arks, City Farming: Ecology as the Basis of Design.

They note early on "The relevance of the GAIA hypothesis in the context of our work is as both working premise and metaphor." One of their fundamental principles is, "Biology is the model for design." They actually break the work into sections based on their nine "Precepts," such as, "Design Should Follow, Not Oppose, the Laws of Life," "Design must Reflect Bioregionality," "Design Should be Coevolutionary with the Natural World," "Design Should Follow a Sacred Ecology."

Here are some representative quotations from the book:

"It is only because most of us do not have a sense of human history over this long period of time that we do not feel how ODD it is to build cities and suburbs as we do."

"Some of the saddest designs in architecture are those of schools."

"The economics for converting a factory to a solar food barn are as yet conjectural."

"A living machine is a device made up of living organisms of all types and usually housed within a casing or structure made of extremely light-weight materials."

This book will continue to be of interest to those interested in ecology, ecovillages, sustainable communities, urban planning, intentional communities, etc.
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Format: Paperback
I found the book to be very informative. It was specific enough to understand his work even if you aren't a biologist yet tied together nicely with an holistic paradigm that wasn't overdone. His vision of the ideal future for urban planning seemed reasonable and worth aiming for.
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Dr. Todd presents us with clear, easy and very logical ideas of how we should live and build our cities. This book should be a required reading for most professionals that deal with development. I would like to see a second book with more hands on examples.
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While I find Dr. Todd's work inspiring, this time around I was disappointed by this particular book. There isn't much new in it since the 1985 publication of Bioshelters, Ocean Arks, and City Farming: Ecology as the Basis of Design. For example, Eco-Cities lifted at times the same paragraphs and sentences from Bioshelters when describing the Cape Cod Ark, the Margaret Mead sailing boat, the Lindisfarne Hamlet, and rooftop gardens.
If you haven't read the 1985 book, then I could see how Eco-Cities deserves a throrough reading. If you have read Bioshelters than I would not purchase the new book, Eco-Cities, but take a glance at it at your local library instead.
I'm currently trying to organize an association in Paris, France to build an apartment complex using the ideas found in both Bioshelters and Eco-Cities. But I'm finding it difficult to gather concrete examples, blueprints, or even contact numbers for architectural firms with the experience to do so. I'd like to encourage the folks at Ocean Arks International to publish a book like Eco-Cities but move past concepts and give us a technological guide for actually creating eco-cities.
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