Who We Are
Whole Systems Design utilizes an interdisciplinary team of land planners, ecological designers, builders, and educators that live in their designs. We unify conventionally disparate fields to develop resilient and regenerative places.
We differ from other designers in that we actually live inside of our work everyday - building and productive landscape systems that feed our bodies and our design approach. We build soil, tend to fruit trees, dig and maintain ponds and roads, tweak wood stoves, sharpen axes, fell trees, bring in the firewood, raise vegetables, fruit, fish, poultry, livestock, tune solar hot water systems, plow snow, live with garden pests and farm challenges, and learn from the innumerable ways one lives in a productive landscape across the seasons. Without such daily experiences we could not deliver valuable site and building design and construction experience. We practice the content of our design on a daily basis because we love it and because it allows us to be competent designers of such places for our clients.
Since the practice of modern architecture and land design is usually far removed from the consequences of its application it reliably produces dysfunctional spaces unfit for vibrant people and other living things. This distancing of designer from the designed is why these fields have consistently failed to deeply protect and enhance human culture and biological diversity for the past few generations. Our practice is part of the design-build, owner-builder movement that is transcending the industrial process which has passed for 'design' for far too long.
We work with our team of specialists we've developed over the past 15 years in Vermont to implement projects.
Ben Falk, M.A.L.D: Design, Planning, Systems Optimization
Ben developed Whole Systems Design, LLC as a land-based response to biological and cultural extinction and the increasing separation between people and elemental things. Life as a designer, builder, ecologist, tree-tender, and backcountry traveler continually informs Ben’s integrative approach to developing landscapes and buildings. His home landscape and the WSD studio site in Vermont's Mad River Valley serve as a proving ground for the regenerative land developments featured in the projects of Whole Systems Design. Ben has studied architecture and landscape architecture at the graduate level and holds a master’s degree in land-use planning and design. He has conducted more than 300 site development consultations across New England and facilitated dozens of courses on permaculture design, property selection, microclimate design, and design for climate change. He has presented workshops at venues ranging from Bioneers to the Omega Institute and has consulted on projects in various countries and across much of the United States.
Ben is the author of the award-winning book the Resilient Farm and Homestead (Chelsea Green, 2013).
An interview on CBC's Spark with Nora Young is a nice overview of Ben's approach, as is Ben's TEDx talk.
An introduction to Ben Falk and some of the work at our farm from Costa on Vimeo.
Cornelius Murphy: Project Management, Studio Manager, Communications, Design
Cornelius has worked with WSD for more than eight years, growing with the firm into a world class design shop. He manages the WSD office, provides project management, and synthesizes CAD and dynamic animation with hand drawing and other graphic media to produce compelling design communications. Cornelius worked as an associate designer in several California-based landscape architecture studios before coming to Vermont and Whole Systems Design. He holds a Permaculture Design Certificate from the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas, CA and a degree in Landscape Architecture from Temple University. Cornelius is the illustrator of the award-winning book the Resilient Farm and Homestead (Chelsea Green, 2013).
Erica Koch Falk, ND, MEd: Whole Systems Skills Instructor, Medicinal Crops, Herbalist
Erica is a Vermont licensed Naturopathic Physician, health educator, gardener, and medicine-maker. She earned her Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from National College of Natural Medicine and a Master of Education from Rutgers University. She has practiced in diverse settings including corporate wellness at Nike, integrative oncology hospitals, and private clinics. She enjoys teaching people about nutrition, herbs, growing food/medicine and integrating practical measures into daily life to promote resilience and health. She is currently credentialed at Gifford Medical Center and recently earned her Agri-Safe certification in Agricultural Medicine.
Erik earned a Master's of Natural Resource Management from the University of Manitoba, working to bring science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge together to create more resilient natural resource management systems to respond to changing climates, cultures, and technologies. He has been working with WSD since completing his PDC with us five years ago. He owns a farm in the Hudson Valley, NY, focused on vegetable and unusual fruit production.
Akira: Zen Master, Crop Protection
Jobs & Internships
Positions for employment and apprenticeship based out of our proving ground and studio in the Mad River Valley of Vermont are ongoing. Please see our Jobs and Internships page for more information.