With climate change posing imminent risks that range from rising seas to more extreme weather events, cities must work with ecology rather than against it to develop sustainably, according to the new book Design with Nature Now (available here). Urban design that values natural systems can help us confront the most serious environmental challenges of this century, says the book, released this month by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design.
Timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of pioneering landscape architect Ian McHarg’s influential manifesto Design with Nature, the new volume features more than 160 color images that illustrate 25 cutting-edge projects that address biodiversity loss, sea-level rise, water and air pollution, and urbanization. These instructive interventions include a park on the site of a New York City landfill that once accepted 29,000 tons of refuse a day; a wetland in China constructed to filter pollution from a planned city of 50,000 people; a proposal for built landforms in coastal Norfolk, Virginia, that would absorb stormwater and tides; and an ambitious concept for a wind turbine farm in the North Sea.
Featuring essays and analysis from leaders in the field of ecological planning, design, and landscape architecture, Design with Nature Now pays tribute to McHarg’s philosophy and impact while demonstrating the continued relevance of his work for a swiftly changing era.
“Design with Nature Now reminds us of the urgency that led Ian McHarg to write his seminal work—and the unavoidable fact that, in many ways, that urgency has only increased,” said George W. “Mac” McCarthy, president of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. “With urbanization occurring rapidly and climate change demanding that we rethink nearly everything about where and how we live, McHarg’s ideas are more apt than ever.”
The book features insights from leading practitioners behind renowned contemporary public works, including James Corner, project lead for New York City’s celebrated High Line Park; Anne Whiston Spirn, who has spearheaded an effort to restore nature and rebuild community in West Philadelphia; and Laurie Olin, whose projects include the master plan for the Los Angeles River and the design of Manhattan’s Bryant Park. It also offers a behind-the-scenes look at the roots of geographic information system (GIS) technology—McHarg is broadly credited with developing the concept behind the widely used planning tool—and compelling evidence that thoughtful design principles can help combat climate change.
McHarg drew new connections between ecology and cities in the 1960s and helped to create the multidisciplinary field of ecological planning. Today, the Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology at the University of Pennsylvania 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 impacts of climate change. The editors of Design with Nature Now, who are McHarg’s successors at the University of Pennsylvania, affirmed the importance of his principles in the climate change effort.
“We are plunging, headlong, into an epoch of global environmental change at an unprecedented scale and pace,” write editors Frederick Steiner, Richard Weller, Karen M’Closkey, and Billy Fleming in the introduction to the book. “How we learn to live with that change is the central challenge for the next half-century of design. In the work we have collected here there are real clues as to how, through design, we can better tune our cities and their infrastructure to the forces and flows of the Earth system.”
Reflecting on McHarg’s legacy and on the impact of the new book, author and activist Bill McKibben said, “Ian McHarg would be heartened to see the range and quality of thinking he’s inspired. Each of these essays will leave you with an enlarged sense of possibility, which is a great gift in a constrained world.”
Bruce Babbitt, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and former board member of the Lincoln Institute, also weighed in, noting, “This exceptional book presents the enduring wisdom of Ian McHarg to a new generation. His insights, freshly interpreted in the pages of landscape designs and drawings, give me hope for the future of our planet.”
To learn more or to order a copy of Design with Nature Now, visit: https://www.lincolninst.edu/publications/books/design-nature-now.
Photograph Credit: Shenmin Liu.