“Design with Nature” by Ian McHarg

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Times have changed drastically since Ian McHarg published Design with Nature about fifty years ago. In the context regarding climate change and the multiple recent hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and not to mention rapid population growth, landscape architects and designers should be focused and well educated on how to properly design with nature and history alike. Landscape architects has always played a critical role in shaping the evolution of a newly urbanized planet to promote thriving ecosystems and avoid destructive practices which lead to increasing failures and disasters, the maintenance and expansion of the environment, or nature as we know it best, but they also need to be mindful of simple lessons from the past. No one can possibly hundred percent fix all of the nature and human induced problems but that is why it is vital to design with nature. The book serves as an excellent resource to landscape architects, engineers, city planning professionals, educators, and students. It is a great model book on how to effectively design in succinct harmony with the natural world.

In reviewing the book, which dates back about fifty years ago, was very well written because it was green before it was cool to be green and environmentally friendly. The key principles included personal experiences, organization, and meaningful content. The two topics that stood out distinctively were land use analysis and a new and improved environmental ethic. The organization of Design with Nature allows the reader to easily follow and understand the future designer, on how to break down a region in its appropriate uses. Pointing out that we build where we should farm, cut forests where we should grow them, and design forms where we should allow nature’s morphologies, McHarg makes clear and comprehensible recommendations for reversing the destructive process of development. In this way, he argued that our cities, industries, farms could avoid major natural hazards and become virtually regenerative. The evolution of design and nature. The book is divided into sixteen narrative chapters including pictures of superimposed overlays of factors to reveal spatial patterns of “intrinsic suitability” for diverse lands. Opening with a narrative of how the author sees the city and countryside as two separate entities but has deep values for both, the book progresses through the problems with the paradox of treatment of natural resources in different parts of the globe, an example dune grass- which is valuable in the Netherlands but they are not recognizable in the entire eastern seaboard as a valuable thing. The problem is variations in the sea shore environments badly affects the plant growth of the area causing major ecological threats to the bay shore itself. The author expresses his anxiety that man has forgotten countryside which is called the plight……..

Nature now includes the urban and toxic, super storms and harsh ecosystems. Design with Nature forges relationships with off-gassing landfills, rising seas, and lethal plumes, alongside remnant prairies, old growth forests, and quaking bogs. These are all part of our nature, which is inseparable from our history and culture. Nature now provides drastically new natures on which to operate. Rather than shadow former patterns of nature, design with nature now imagines and projects future natures harnessing their awesome powers and humblest forms.

The construction of the book meshes well with its organization and lends itself successfully to the study of different landscapes and environmental issues. Each chapter contains pictures and diagrams of what he is discussing and examples range from what it looks like now to how it should look like if landscape architects make the necessary changes to improve design throughout nature. Unfortunately, the intriguing and detailed pictures may also confuse the reader if they are unknowledgeable on how to properly read the pictures and diagrams correctly because it can be so numerous that it distorts or takes away focus from the text. Most chapters are completed by a thorough description of a case study directly associated with landscape. The book is well-referenced, making skillful use of first-person sources.

Starting with a personal narrative of the author’s upbringing and background, McHarg was born in the industrial Scottish city of Glasgow. After serving time in World War II, he then returned to birthplace and began pondering on how he should spend the rest of his life. He attended Harvard University, without having any prior prerequisites courses, where he earned two degrees in landscape architecture and city planning. He was the founder of the department of landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. McHarg pioneered the concept of ecological planning through captivating, honest, informative, constructively critical, but in all an optimistic detailed progression of how man occupy and modify the earth greatest when we plan and design with careful attention to both the ecology and the natural characteristics of the landscape.

Design with Nature falls short of describing a complete, cyclical ecology, and focuses mostly on patterns of land use and the morphology of human settlements. This deficiency is in part of reflections of the book’s era- suburban sprawl was seen by many as the principal threat to the natural environment in the late 1960s. McHarg views cars as a permanent fixture and elaborates on how highways and interstates can be better situated in landscape with being eliminated. Landscape designers use guidelines and tools to create attractive, pleasing and comfortable areas. The overall goal is to incorporate proportion, order, repetition, and unity. The book’s usage of color, vivid stories helps to make the advancements come to life as something more than a simple design. But, at times these pictures can clutter the page, they make light of what is considered a boring and uninteresting subject matter.

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"Design with Nature" by Ian McHarg. (2021, Oct 14). Retrieved June 14, 2024 , from

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