Building the Wege Center for Sustainable Design

Posted June 1, 2012 in Federal Building Updates


Kendall College of Art and Design is proud to house the Wege Center for Sustainable Design on the fourth floor of the newly renovated Historic Federal Building, 17 Pearl NW. Kendall defines sustainability from the perspective of the Triple Bottom Line: people, planet, profit.1 Students and educators work to bring the understanding of sustainable design into the classroom as a foundation of design thinking, integrated into the art and design programs.

As Ferris President Dr. David Eisler stated, “Design is an economic driver for West Michigan. When you think about the future of the design world, you think about sustainable design. That’s where the field is moving. The intent behind the Wege Center for Sustainable Design is to integrate sustainability as a core organizing concept for Kendall’s work in the design field.”

Peter Wege is known as the champion of economicology, the merging of economy with ecology, and has authored two books on the subject. The financial and intellectual support of Peter and the Wege Foundation have afforded Kendall the opportunity to leverage the College’s core competencies, art and design, to build a resource for both students and the community where design and art are understood as vehicles for solving problems and telling stories of a more sustainable community and culture.

Concern for ecology, equity and economy is not new to design thinkers. In 1969 Buckminister Fuller’s book, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, reminded us that humans are responsible to care for this, our only planet.

William McDonough, AIA, Time magazine’s Hero of the Planet in 1999 and recipient of an honorary doctorate from Kendall College of Art and design that same year, reminds us that everything is designed. Indeed, designers carry the burden of solving many of our social and environmental challenges.

Ray Anderson (1934-2011), founder and chairman of Interface, Inc., who also holds an honorary doctorate from Kendall (2007), recognized that as a supplier to the design and building industries he was obligated to think about his industry’s impact on the planet and therefore transformed the way carpeting is manufactured today. His legacy is captured in a poem he often quoted:

Tomorrow’s Child © Glenn Thomas Without a name; an unseen face and knowing not your time nor place Tomorrow’s Child, though yet unborn, I met you first last Tuesday morn.

A wise friend introduced us two, and through his sobering point of view I saw a day that you would see; a day for you, but not for me

Knowing you has changed my thinking, for I never had an inkling That perhaps the things I do might someday, somehow, threaten you

Tomorrow’s Child, my daughter-son I’m afraid I’ve just begun To think of you and of your good, Though always having known I should.

Begin I will to weigh the cost of what I squander; what is lost If ever I forget that you will someday come to live here too.

Kendall sits in a region of West Michigan rich with leaders in sustainable design and business. We are grateful for the community that willingly supports our work. Area scholars, businesses, community leaders, and non-profit organizations share resources and knowledge to the benefit of our students’ learning.

1 Elkington, 1994 Cannibals with Forks


About Peter Wege and the Wege Foundation

Peter Wege started The Wege Foundation in 1967 out of his love for the Earth and all its people. In the book he wrote in 1998, Economicology: The Eleventh Commandment, Peter coined the word "economicology" to sum up his environmental philosophy: a prosperous economy depends on a healthy ecology. Economy + ecology = economicology.

While the environment was Peter’s earliest cause—and remains his best known—The Wege Foundation has four other major missions in addition to the environment: education, health, the arts, and community service. For Peter, the primary thread running through all the Foundation’s missions is education.