Ian McHarg: Champion for Design with Nature




Green, Heal and Restore the Earth

Renowned landscape architect and educator Ian L. McHarg was best known for introducing environmental concerns in landscape architecture. He was also instrumental in founding the original “Earth Week” in 1970. Ian McHarg died in 2001.

McHarg’s book Design With Nature is widely considered one of the most important and influential works of its kind. It has sold more than 155,000 copies and remains one of the most widely used textbooks on landscape architecture and architecture in the United States. His premise is simple: “that the shaping of land for human use ought to be based on an understanding of natural process.” The ecological planning method developed by him to apply this theory was seized upon and used throughout the world. 

McHarg insisted we look at the many aspects of the entire system we are designing when building streets, structures, and cities. That instead of having the hubris to fight against natural forces, to rather design in harmony with them. And he showed how to do this, with modern tools, analytic overlays, GIS mapping, and a fact-based approach. 

“For me, the great dream would be, if by the remaining years of this century…the nation and the world concluded there should be a global and national ecological inventory…all of us address ourself to greening, healing and restoring the earth,” stated Ian McHarg in his acceptance speech when he received the President’s Award at  the 1997 Esri User Conference.



During his acceptance speech, Ian McHarg reminisced with typical humor about his seminal discoveries of overlays and chronology, the challenges of environmental planning, and the role that GIS can play. To watch him speak, click on Video of Ian McHarg at the Esri User Conference in 1997



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