The Bateson Building, Sacramento, California, 1977–81, and the Design of a New Age State explores an origin of architectural sustainability in the 1970s California governmental programs of Governor Jerry Brown and the circle around Brown and his consultant Stewart Brand, a countercultural entrepreneur. Focusing on the Bateson Building, designed by State Architect Sim Van der Ryn and his team to be the world's first large energy-saving, climate-modulating building, Simon Sadler traces the ambition of the first Brown administration to reinvent the state as a unified ecology founded on New Age principles, notably those drawn from the second-order cybernetics of anthropologist Gregory Bateson, who served as an adviser to the governor. Drawing on archival and published sources from government, environmental policy, cybernetics, and architecture, Sadler recounts an ambitious ecological agenda that included the new Office of Appropriate Technology, a projected space program, and a water atlas for the state of California. Sadler argues for a reconsideration of the history of sustainable and postmodern architecture alike.

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