The book, Design with Nature was published in 1967 reflecting McHarg’s experience in landscape design and planning. During publication, McHarg’s book was innovative and extensively accepted as a bible for modern landscape architects. McHarg’s learnings aided an early praise for the need for cities to incorporate the qualities of the natural environment.
He was awarded degrees in landscape architecture and planning at Harvard.Reading the book, it appeared to me that McHarg had a close spiritual connection with the physical environment; this was observed in the quote, “this book is a personal testament to the power and importance of sun, moon and stars, the changing seasons, seedtime and harvest, clouds, rain and rivers, the oceans and the forests, the creatures and the herbs”. The writing style is a combination of philosophical and ecological concepts. It is visible that McHarg has a dissatisfaction with the city, since he described the city as “… God’s Junkyard”, “Bedlam”, and “dead grey tissue encircling the nation”.This book covers a wide range of thoughts and ideas, the type of book that needs to be read plenty of times to embed a full understanding of the content. ‘Design With Nature’ is the keystone to the way contemporary urban design, planning and sustainability is practised. I believe one of the key messages McHarg expresses is that there needs to be human cooperation and a concern for the natural environment and ecology when dealing with urban design. McHarg explores the relationship between the built environments and nature, using this to demonstrate how without having detrimental effects on each other both of them can be used to their full potential.
Conflict of thoughts I had with this book is that it shows the general conviction by academics during the sixties who believed that suburban sprawl was the main threat for natural environment. It just focuses on patterns of land use mainly and fails to look at it from a design prespective. A pioneer of urban design and of the environmental movement; McHarg work has contributed to and influenced, among many others, environmental impact assessment, coastal zone management, river corridor planning and ideas about sustainability and regenerative design.In the sixties era, environment played a minute role in planning, due to the failure to quantify and display spatial information in a useful way. This is also due to the intellectual and philosophical perspective on planning at this time. McHarg developed a system that facilitated development of Geographic Information Systems. I would strongly recommend this book to students/teachers/professionals who wish to understand the involvement of natural environment with recent urban design.