Salutogenic Design

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Daniel Christian Wahl:

"In 2006, my doctoral research concluded that if the basic intention behind all human design was salutogenesis, we would be able to facilitate a local and global shift towards sustainability (Wahl, 2006b). Valerie Brown lists two criteria that should guide human behaviour if we hope to avoid serious damage to the natural processes that maintain systemic health. We need to i) “consume nature’s flows while conserving the stocks (that is, live off the ‘interest’ while conserving natural capital” and ii) “increase society’s stocks (human resources, civil institutions) and limit the flow of material and energy” (Brown et al., 2005). Both are central aspects of a regenerative culture.

Salutogenic design aims to facilitate the emergence of health at and across all scales of the whole. It recognizes the inextricable link between human, ecosystem and planetary health. Rather than primarily focusing on the relief of symptoms of disease or ill-health, this approach tries to promote positive health and a flourishing of the whole.

In other words, the aim of salutogenic design is to support healthy individuals in healthy communities acting responsibly in healthy societies to nurture and maintain healthy ecosystem functioning as the basis for healthy bioregions and ultimately a healthy biosphere. Scale-linking, salutogenic design aims to create resilient and regenerative systems at and across all scales." (


Daniel Christian Wahl:

"I see the ‘regenerative design framework’ developed by Regenesis Group and Carol Sanford as another example of salutogenic metadesign. It invites us to think beyond sustainability by exploring our individual and collective potential to have restorative, regenerative and healing agency. I first came across this work in an article by Bill Reed (2006) entitled ‘Shifting our Mental Models’. By putting conventional practice, green, sustainable, restorative and regenerative on one spectrum we can learn to value all of them as steps on a journey.

We have done so much damage to the systemic health of the biosphere and to our communities and societies that simply being sustainable — while still representing an important bridge we have not crossed yet — will no longer be enough. We need to restore ecosystems and planetary health and regenerate the patterns of relationship that enable our communities and cities to flourish while driving the regeneration of the bioregions and ecosystems we inhabit.

The ‘reconciliatory’ step which reintegrates humanity into life as a planetary process is possibly the crucial Metadesign shift that will enable us to understand our action not as something we are doing to nature, but rather to pay special attention to how our doing and being are expressions of design as nature. As parts of and participants in nature we can learn to nurture health, resilience and adaptive capacity within the Socio-Ecological-Systems we participate in.

Evolution is a process of diversification and subsequent integration of diversity at higher levels of complexity. Such integration tends to occur as life evolves new patterns of cooperative organization (see graphic above). Cities are an example of such integration at high levels of complexity. Every day there are many more cooperative than competitive interactions in the world’s cities. The challenge now is to reintegrate cities into the living fabric of their bioregions within the context of regenerating ecosystems and planetary health."