Monday, January 9, 2012

Ian McHarg, Landscape Architecture, and Environmentalism: Ideas and Methods in Context

by Anne Whiston Spirn

In 1959, Ian McHarg introduced prominent scientists, humanists, and poets to landscape architecture by inviting them to speak in his course Man and Environment at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1969, he published Design with Nature, a f inalist for the National Book Award and a book that led to fundamental changes in the teaching and practice of landscape architecture (Fig. 1). For the next decade, he promoted landscape architecture as the instrument of environmentalism and helped shape national policy on the environment. McHarg is among the very few landscape architects since Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. who have commanded widespread notice, respect, and inf luence outside the design and planning f ields.1 But what, exactly, are his contributions to landscape architecture within the context of environmentalism? While there is consensus on the importance of his inf luence, there is disagreement over the nature of his legacy. A perplexing f igure, he has always generated controversy within the profession, at least among North Americans. The conf licts and inconsistencies embodied in McHarg’s words and actions are those of the profession itself—the tensions between preservation and management, nature and culture, tradition and invention, theory and practice.


more about architecture:

Frank O. Gehry: Sculptor and Architect for the Twenty-first Century

Fractalled: The Interstitial Spaces And Frank Gehry

The House that Shaped an Architectural Generation: Frank Gehry’s First ‘Deconstructivist’ Building

Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, by Zaha Hadid

Globalization, building technology and architecture

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