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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

February 2007 Issue

DESIGN ON THE PRAIRIE
A walk through Darrel Morrison’s latest prairie restoration reveals a world of complexity and natural beauty.

By Mary Myers

DESIGN ON THE PRAIRIE Darrel Morrison

Much has been written about ecologically based design, particularly about the need to understand scientific principles and to integrate them into design. Many questions remain, however, about the form ecological design should take. Will the public have to accept a “messier” look? Will accepted and long-held aesthetic principles such as the English picturesque need to be discarded or modified? What about the psychological aspects of design?

One answer, furnished by landscapes such as those designed by Darrel Morrison, FASLA, a former professor at the University of Georgia’s School of Environmental Design, is that the new landscape model will require active engagement. It will require walking into more than just looking at—purely visual engagement will not reveal the nuances of complex prairie or forest landscapes. These new landscapes will need to be experienced through touch and smell as well as sight.

Last July, I walked with Morrison through a recent project, a native Wisconsin demonstration garden on four acres that are part of the visitors garden at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum in Madison. The process by which Morrison created this landscape, its sensitivity to its site, and the creativity he brings to his evocation of a disappearing natural landscape could help broaden the constituency for ecological design and expand Americans’ notions of what is beautiful. “I always have had the optimistic view that if it is pretty and is also scientifically accurate and appropriate, people will gradually make the change,” says Morrison. “I think we are educating for a new aesthetic.”

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