Episode 19 Peter Ellis

Every so often you meet someone who just blows your mind. At first, you don’t think they’re for real, but then you realize that such an extraordinary human being actually does exist.

I first met the renowned architect Peter Ellis about twenty years ago. His firm at the time, SOM Architects, had asked me to join their team to compete as the development, construction and design team for San Francisco’s Presidio Letterman complex. I’d be the sustainability consultant for the 26 acre ground up mini town within the old Army base located along the fabulous waterfront. A more prominent site was extremely rare anywhere in the world.

What was so unusual was how Peter intuitively understood the natural development potential of that inspiring site above the Bay. I think he must have been camping out on the site since he knew it’s natural characteristics so well: winds, groundwater tables, solar exposure, gradations, history, and indigenous species.

Whereas competing designs proposed building enormous monuments that felt more like cold windy urban downtowns, Peter sketched out a new town complete with main street, pedestrian access throughout, and mixed use appropriately scaled buildings surrounded by huge open parks. He had coffee and bike shops, and rental apartments along with new senior housing and a hotel, opening up the historic site to the public.

Even though we came in the runner-up position to George Lucas’ film production company, Peter and I remained friends and colleagues. He went on to design large cities, including Jaypee Sports City that would house a million people in India, 30 miles south of New Delhi. His city and campus design practice embraced new concepts on transportation, water, energy and waste. Another specialty is Peter’s focus in re-structuring of America’s 19th-century cities, always looking for how they could contribute positively to the natural environment.

It’s a true pleasure to share with you my conversation with Peter about his vital work in this week’s Regen360 iTunes podcast. I hope you’ll join me in being inspired by Peter’s vast vision and love of architecture that sustains.

Thanks for your support,

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