Designing as if All Things Are Related© – Part 1

Posted on September 9, 2013 by David Blumenkrantz


Over the past 30 years I have been talking with one of my best friends about the similarities of our work. Chuck Silver is an award winning Platinum LEED designer and principal in the design firm, Hudson River Design. His intentional community, business and home designs are not only stunning, they are eloquently aligned with their natural surroundings, frequently have zero energy impact and meet the clients’ needs. Unlike many traditional architects his approach engages others, including stakeholders, policymakers and local zoning officials, in ongoing conversations. The central purpose of these conversations is to ensure that the design and subsequent structure(s) are a fit with the location (other physical structures), nature and the people who will use and inhabit the building(s). This Whole Building Design approach recognizes the connectivity between all structures in nature.

In the June Paradigm Shift Blog – Organizing For A Change - I began to identify the design principles associated with the process of youth and community development through rites of passage. It featured a Core Group as the community’s first Initiatory Cohort, a necessity for the emergence and continuous adaptation of community-oriented rites of passage. The Core Group engages in its own rite of passage experience which fosters trust and a supportive environment for members to co-learn and co-create their community’s rite of passage.

The process for designing physical structures, large and small projects, such as homes, intentional co-housing, condos and apartment buildings, office parks, shopping malls and entire communities is very complex. Much more energy, human capital, money, and rigorous design and building considerations are given to the design and construction of physical spaces than is dedicated to the design and implementation of education and human service programs. However, we all know that no matter how complex the process is to design and build physical structures, it is nothing compared to the complexity involved in designing and building health-promoting, nurturing, education, human and youth service or rites of passage environments and programs.

“Education and human services are deceptively complex. At their best, they connect us with the past and represent the greatest legacy for the future. They encourage productivity, embody our culture, and certainly play an important part in life on the planet. In fact, the role of Education and human services is constantly changing. Education and human services today are life support systems, communication and data terminals, centers of education, justice, and community, and so much more. They are incredibly expensive to build and maintain and must constantly be adjusted to function effectively over their life cycle. The economics of Education and human services has become as complex as its design.”


This is from the National Institute of Building Sciences – “Whole Building Design” (3.2012). I’ve replaced the word “building” with “education and human services.” This just demonstrates that other disciplines supply many valuable lessons that could help inform our thinking and practice in education, human & youth services and rites of passage. In a sense we are architects in our work with youth and community development through rites of passage. Just as there are design principles that inform building physical structures, our work includes 20 design principles that help focus the inquiry and conversations.

Part 2 will continue the focus on design principles and the process for engaging citizens, youth and adults, as architects. For additional information about the 20 design principles of youth & community development through rites of passage visit Downloadable material is located on the home page.

Read Part 2 of this article here.


© David Blumenkrantz, 2013. No permission is granted to copy, extract language or design principles, without appropriate reference and citation.

Posted in ROPE

Read more about Youth & Community Development through Rites of Passage in the new and highly acclaimed book by Dr. David Blumenkranz.

David Blumenkrantz, Ph.D., Ed.M., Founder & Executive Director, the Center for Youth & Community

What I’m Writing About

Recent Posts


Why This Blog Now?

It’t time for a Paradigm Shift – a fundamental change in beliefs, theory and approach – in developing community-centered responses to the challenges faced by today’s Youth & Community. More here>>