About Sim

Sim Van der Ryn—architect, author, and educator—has been integrating ecological principles into the built environment for more than 40 years. He spent 35 years as professor of architecture at UC Berkeley and was California’s State Architect for Governor Jerry Brown in the late 1970s, designing and building the State’s first energy efficient and climate-responsive building. Sim’s signature style, his collaborative approach and meta-disciplinary accomplishments continue to show us the way to an evolving era that values both the integrity of ecological systems and quality of life for all.

Long before sustainability became the buzzword du jour, there was Sim Van der Ryn, the intrepid pioneer of the eco-frontier.
— New York Times

The author of several influential books, he has won numerous honors—a Guggenheim in 1971, Rockefeller Fellowships in Bellagio, Italy in 1997 and 2012, and the Athena Lifetime Achievement Award from the Congress for New Urbanism in 2006—for his leadership and innovation in architecture and planning. Click here for a more comprehensive list of Sim's Awards & Honors.


Trained as an architect with a degree from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; licenses from California and New Mexico; and certification from the National Council of Architectural Registration, the theme of Sim’s career in design, teaching and research has been applying principles of physical and social ecology to architecture and environmental design. His regenerative design solutions create environments that are resilient to human needs, place, ecology and climate.

An early innovator as California State Architect (under Gov. Jerry Brown) who introduced energy efficient design and renewable energy to California and his thirty five years as an innovator and hands- on Professor of Ecological Design at UC Berkeley, his influence on shaping the Green Architecture and Sustainable Design movement are widely recognized today.


Native to the Netherlands, at the age of five Sim’s family fled war torn Europe in 1939 to the outskirts of New York City. There, in nearby deserted marshes, vacant lots, and pocket parks, began Sim’s innate fascination and respect for the natural world. He found an inner calm in the midst of unfamiliar orderly life forms.

Looking back at this time, Sim writes in his latest book, Design for Life, “What I found in that haggard slice of nature was myself.” The unspoken tragedy that he and his family left behind along with his experiences in nature imprinted him with a lifelong concern for social justice, equity and ecology. “When you escape one holocaust, you don’t want to be part of creating another.”