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ASLA 2020 Residential Design Award of Excellence. Marshcourt, Cambridge, MA. Reed Hilderbrand >

Design With Nature Now

Throughout history, cultures have either withered or flourished as a consequence of how they lived with the land – in other words, how well they designed with nature. But never before have the stakes been as high as they are today. 

The 21st century is defined by the fact that humanity has directly or indirectly modified almost every habitat on the planet, with the unintended consequences that the planet is warming, species are disappearing, and resources are being depleted. It is now possible that our extraordinary success as a species could also bring about our demise.

What stands between us and this apocalyptic scenario is our ability to imagine a different future—an ecological future. In practical terms, this means intelligently planning and designing the landscapes upon which we depend before they are uninhabitable. Doing so is the defining characteristic of the profession of landscape architecture.

Room for the River

The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design has launched Design With Nature Now, a multi-platform exploration of the legacy of visionary planner and landscape architect Ian L. McHarg occasioned by the 50th anniversary of his 1969 book Design With Nature.

The flagship exhibition, Design With Nature Now: Five Themes, 25 Projects, 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. Ian McHarg: The House We Live In draws from the extensive holdings of Penn’s Architectural Archives to tell the story of McHarg’s life and work. Laurel McSherry: A Book of Days takes visitors to the Clyde River Valley in Scotland, McHarg’s childhood home, through an installation by landscape architect and visual artist Laurel McSherry.


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.

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.

To learn more, contact

Pictured: Yellowstone to Yukon conservation initiative, Canada and U.S.; Zandmotor beach replenishment, the Netherlands; Room for the River, the Netherlands; Samboja Lestari afforestation project, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. 

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