Revinventing Transformation Through Sustainable Design

Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.

– Marianne Williamson


“Walk on the wild side” is not only one of my most beloved Lou Reed songs, but a good reminder to move beyond our norm, and re-design our lives as we evolve. The idea of reinvention is one bursting with possibility: from reinventing ourselves to changing the urban spaces in which we live, transformation is necessary for progress and growth. Most long-term, iconic superstars — like Madonna, or The Beatles — share this ability to change with the times, through their own personal evolution.

An acclaimed American musician and innovator, Lou Reed was also a master at embodying this enticing concept, constantly rolling with the flow of ground-breaking creativity. My favorite album of his even directly alludes to this with its title, Transformer. Regrettably, Reed passed away several days ago, leaving behind an ocean of contemplative fans wondering how to adequately honor his legendary influence. One of the reasons Reed touched so many of us was in his endless ability to shapeshift — both within himself and outwardly, through exploring new facets of his art, music, and performance work. Hearing about his death really shook me, causing me to question my own efforts in revolutionizing myself. A source of inspiration, Reed’s legacy will live on in the hearts of those of us who take up the exciting challenge of living in our own perpetual state of metamorphosis.

From cocoon to butterfly, we repeat our cycle of transformation over and over, throughout our human lifetime. Photo courtesy of Troup1.

 Transforming merging worlds

Two industries that seem to be continuously undergoing mini-revolutions are design and architecture. Perhaps their innovations are so apparent simply due to their highly visible nature; we’re all instantly aware when a new building crops up in our city, and those of us who regularly scan design magazines are easily updated with the latest trends. But the effects of these sectors’ advancements run far deeper than mere outward aesthetic appearance; these products and buildings are reinventing how we live, on a day-to-day basis — where the real change really begins. It’s happening in design with the advent of products like the all-natural Soma water filter, as well as in architecture, with new structures that are breaking open any pre-conceived notions of what buildings can be.

Since the late 50′s, people have been talking about sustainability issues with regards to our environment. Since then, sustainable design has transformed how our products and buildings are built. Yet, this eco-friendly movement has also felt the call to go further: with sights set on reinventing our cities’ connections to agriculture, a shift from urbanscapes to farmscapes is already taking place.


You’re going to reap just what you sow.

– Lou Reed, Perfect Day


When urban industrialization first occurred, many urban cities were looked at contemptuously. Seen as depressing and demoralizing, they lacked connection with our natural world. We’re now seeing this come full circle with visionary architects like Vincent Callebaut, who is trying to mold our cityscapes into areas of natural inspiration: in the future, perhaps many an urban landscape will turn into a holistic marriage between environmental values, production, and design.


Vincent Callebaut’s tall, high-rise “farmscrapers” are visionary in their merging of agriculture, design, and urban industrialization. Will these be the future? Photo courtesy of

Originally from Belgium, Callebaut has big plans for the impending realm of urban agriculture:

“[He] has developed a concept to introduce natural ecosystems into cities with designs for ‘farmscrapers’ made from piles of giant glass pebbles for a site in Shenzhen, China.”

Merging the natural with the urban through revolutionary design and careful aesthetics is certainly transformative in many ways, even if Callebaut’s farmscrapers have yet to prove their overall efficiency. Seeing bold work like this is motivational in itself, and strikes a chord between urban evolution and our personal growth as people: we are always, if subconsciously, blending our old selves with what we are becoming. Finding ways to create a singular, safe home for our old beliefs and our new ones as we learn and grow is an ongoing process in our quest for authentic realization. Even still, this is only if we are open enough to allowing our minds to change. Letting our values shift according to new information we receive, and experiences we have, requires that we have already spent some time honing both vulnerability and a steady sense of grounding.

Asian Cairns embodies the idea of bringing together many aspects of modern life: food production, urban living, business, and a pull toward returning to nature. Photo courtesy of

 The garden is no more placed side by side to the building; it is the building!

– Vincent Callebaut


Reading this quote instantly brought to mind a recent article I’d read about vulnerability, where the author thoughtfully pointed out that, “In truth, to say ‘just as nature does’ is kind of silly because it implies that we are separate from nature. We’re not. We are nature.”

I’ve been open about my love for technology, innovative design, and urban living (though I do love a quiet, peaceful countryside!); all of these giant industrial leaps stir my curiosity, and drive my personal interests. However, the more we learn about design and technological advancements, the more clear it becomes that moving toward a holistic lifestyle approach is the answer. The battle is no longer urban versus nature, or human vs nature; in fact, the revelation is that it is no longer a battle at all: rather, the goal is about gently broadening our perspective. How do we begin to live harmoniously with our universe after so many years spent in discord?

I do believe we have the potential to successfully use human innovation, talent, intelligence, and technology to live in tandem with nature. Talented creative souls like Callebaut prove that we’re well on our way, emphasizing the need to embrace personal transformation in order to create outward evolution in our everyday realities. Let us choose to embody the ripple effect Reed has left in his wake — one of constant metamorphosis and revolution, akin to a butterfly eternally emerging from its cocoon, limitless.


Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

― George Bernard Shaw