Landscape Architecture

Posted April 22, 2019
  • Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. Animal crossing overpass, Banff National Park, Alberta.On view in the Meyerson Galleries.

     Photo © Paul Zizka

Design With Nature, 50 Years Later

Beginning on the Summer Solstice, the Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology at the Weitzman School is presenting Design With Nature Now, a multi-platform exploration of the legacy of visionary environmental planner and landscape architect Ian L. McHarg.

Design With Nature Now, echoing the title of McHarg’s 1969 book Design With Nature, takes visitors on a global tour of 25 ongoing or completed projects in 21 nations—from China to the United States, and from Columbia to New Zealand—to measure the political, environmental, and economic dimensions of landscape architecture as practiced today.

“The 21st century is marked by the fact that humanity has directly or indirectly modified every habitat on the planet, and much of it deleteriously so,” said Richard Weller, co-executive director of the McHarg Center, and professor and chair of the department of landscape architecture. “With the unintended consequences of global warming, species extinction, and resource depletion, it is now possible that our extraordinary success as a species could also become our demise.”

In addition to the titular exhibition, Design With Nature Now (June 21–September 15 at Meyerson Galleries, 210 South 34 Street, Philadelphia), consists of an archival and artist-led exhibition, a two-day conference, a series of lectures and tours, a documentary video and a website.

Ian McHarg: The House We Live In (June 21–September 15 at Kroiz Gallery, Architectural Archives, 220 South 34 Street, Philadelphia) draws from the extensive  holdings of Penn’s Architectural Archives to tell the story of McHarg’s life and work. The exhibit illuminates the ecological approach to design he developed over his four decades at Penn and explores the expansive context—in teaching, practice, advocacy, and writing—for his book Design With Nature.

Laurel McSherry: A Book of Days (June 21–September 15 at Arthur Ross Gallery, Housed within the Fisher Fine Arts Library Building, 220 South 34 Street, Philadelphia) takes visitors to the Clyde River Valley in Scotland, McHarg’s childhood home, through an installation by landscape architect and visual artist Laurel McSherry. McSherry’s abstract meditations on place and time reconnect McHarg’s formative years to his professional life at Penn.

Design With Nature Now marks the official launch of the Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology, an interdisciplinary think tank at Penn that brings environmental and social scientists together with planners, designers, policy-makers, and communities to develop practical, innovative ways of improving the quality of life in the places most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

“The McHarg Center extends the scholarship and ideas that Ian presented to the world,” said Frederick Steiner, co-executive director of the McHarg Center, and dean and Paley Professor at the Weitzman School. “His ideas and contributions to landscape architecture are critical for protecting our planet and way of life from the effects of climate change and urbanization.”

A forthcoming book from Lincoln Institute of Land Policy documents the three exhibitions and extends the dialogue on ecological design with reflections by leading scholars and practitioners including James Corner, Erle Ellis, Ursula Heise, Laurie Olin, Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, David Orr, and Anne Whiston Spirn. The book is edited by Dean Steiner; Professor Weller; Billy Fleming, Wilks Family Director of the McHarg Center; and Karen M’Closkey, associate professor of landscape architecture.

All events are open to the public. Visit mcharg.upenn.edu/now for program details.