Designing To Avoid Disaster: The Nature of Fracture-Critical Design, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Designing To Avoid Disaster

The Nature of Fracture-Critical Design, 1st Edition

By Thomas Fisher


258 pages

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Recent catastrophic events, such as the I-35W bridge collapse, New Orleans flooding, the BP oil spill, Port au Prince's destruction by earthquake, Fukushima nuclear plant's devastation by tsunami, the Wall Street investment bank failures, and the housing foreclosure epidemic and the collapse of housing prices, all stem from what author Thomas Fisher calls fracture-critical design. This is design in which structures and systems have so little redundancy and so much interconnectedness and misguided efficiency that they fail completely if any one part does not perform as intended. If we, as architects, planners, engineers, and citizens are to predict and prepare for the next disaster, we need to recognize this error in our thinking and to understand how design thinking provides us with a way to anticipate unintended failures and increase the resiliency of the world in which we live.

In Designing to Avoid Disaster, the author discusses the context and cultural assumptions that have led to a number of disasters worldwide, describing the nature of fracture-critical design and why it has become so prevalent. He traces the impact of fracture-critical thinking on everything from our economy and politics to our educational and infrastructure systems to the communities, buildings, and products we inhabit and use everyday. And he shows how the natural environment and human population itself have both begun to move on a path toward a fracture-critical collapse that we need to do everything possible to avoid. We designed our way to such disasters and we can design our way out of them, with a number of possible solutions that Fisher provides.


"In this essential book Fisher takes us through ‘fracture-critical’ design failures and provides solutions by articulating how ‘resilient design’ is the key to our longevity as a species. The research behind this theory spans many disciplines though the writing is accessible to all. This is required reading for designers, planners, politicians and citizens."

Michael Zaretsky, architect and associate professor, University of Cincinnati, Ohio

"Tom Fisher challenges us to think about disasters in a new way: not as the inevitable result of nature, but rather, problems that we can design our way out of. We, and the environments we create, are not the victims of circumstance. We can save ourselves through informed design and make a new world that rewards intelligence and foresight. In this book, Fisher throws us a life preserver of design. "

Michael J. Crosbie, architecture critic and associate dean, University of Hartford, Connecticut

Table of Contents

Introduction: Designed Catastrophes Part 1 1. The Increasing Incidence of Disasters 2. Our Planetary Ponzi Scheme 3. Fracture-Critical Design 4. Disasters on Demand 5. The Anti-Shock Doctrine 6. Redefining Success Part 2 7. Fracture-Critical Species 8. Re-sizing the Human Footprint 9. Fracture-Critical Population 10. Protective Design 11. Fracture-Critical Economy 12. Rethinking Work 13. Fracture-Critical Politics 14. Reimagining Government 15. Fracture-Critical Higher Education 16. Redesigning the University 17. Fracture-Critical Infrastructure 18. Going Dutch 19. Fracture-Critical Developments 20. A Better Way to Dwell 21. Fracture-Critical Buildings 22. Designing for Durability 23. Fracture-Critical Consumption 24. Creative Citizen Consumption Part 3 25. Why We Have So Much Bad Design 26. The Design Mind 27. The Process of Design 28. The Logic of Design 29. The Pragmatics of Design 30. The Holon of Design 31. Designing our Future 32. What We Can Live Without 33. The Adulthood of the Species 34. Media, Metaphor, and Meaning 35. The Nature of Things to Come 36. Hell or Paradise? Endnotes

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ARCHITECTURE / Professional Practice
ARCHITECTURE / Sustainability & Green Design
DESIGN / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Economic Policy
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Regional Planning
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Disasters & Disaster Relief