50th Anniversary of Ian McHarg’s Design With Nature – A Celebration

Exhibition/event Rationale:

The exhibition is planned to celebrate the 50th year since the publication of Ian McHarg’s seminal text ‘Design With Nature’. The text had a huge impact on the profession of landscape architecture, shifting its focus from an aesthetic basis towards a large-scale ecological approach. The text also had a great influence on the wider associated professions of planning and ecology and led to the development of Landscape Urbanism, an approach that underpins many influential contemporary design practices. So far, McHarg’s influence is well known in his adopted homeland of America due to his tireless efforts at the University of Pennsylvania and his TV series ‘The House We Live In’ that brought his ideas to the wider general population of the USA. Unfortunately, McHarg’s legacy is less well known back in his homeland of Scotland despite his early teaching years at University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow and his huge impact on many Scottish students that chose to study under him as post-graduates at the University of Pennsylvania. The exhibition and event hopes to raise awareness of McHarg, his great positive influence and place within the wider narrative of the Scottish Environmental Tradition.

Exhibition Sections:

Great Scots and Environmentalism in Scotland (pre 1900) Timeline with photographs of key figures in the development of Scottish environmentalism, such as John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843), Patrick Neill (1776-1851), John Muir (1838-1914), Patrick Geddes (1854-1932)

Patrick Geddes’ influence on McHarg (1900-1950) Presentation or exhibit highlighting the parallels in scale of approach between Geddes valley sections and McHarg’s regional studies.

McHarg’s early teaching in Scotland (1950-1955) Presentation or exhibition on McHarg’s landscape history and theory courses developed for Scottish architects at Glasgow School of Art and University of Edinburgh.

McHarg’s Scottish Students (1958-1970)
This could cover a range of professions, such as:

  • Architecture: Morris and Steedman (UPenn 57-59) early Scottish houses (Historic Scotland, Listing and Designed Landscapes Team have developed a pamphlet on this which may be possible to turn into exhibition material, or may be able to develop develop a talk on the subject?)
  • Theory: Michael Brown (UPenn 57-59) slides and writing taken from ‘Light on Landscape’ a draft monograph written under McHarg’s supervision at UPenn. Luca Csepely-Knorr has the image rights for this work.
  • GIS/ Professional Development (LIS founding and approach): Mark Turnbull (UPenn 66-68?) Design with Nature and/or GIS development, plans of projects, photographs. Turnbull papers, LIS.
  • Education: David Skinner (UPenn 57-59) returned to Edinburgh to create the ECA landscape course. Focus on history and development of the course approach. University of Edinburgh Archives.

It is envisaged that the material could be collated into a single richly illustrated exhibition divided across the three themes, with a range of different visual information that might cover copies of written work, diagrams, sketches, drawn plans, photographs/slide scans, built projects.

An opening event could provide the opportunity for a short presentation on each theme before a round-table discussion on McHarg’s future legacy in Scotland, or how his work and approach can continue to inspire the professions into the twenty-first century. It could also be possible to develop a 1 day ‘ecological design charette’ for young people in association with one of the universities with the results presented at the event or general exhibition.


The primary audience for the exhibition is designers and students of landscape architecture and the wider planning professions in Scotland but is also aimed at increasing interest in the subject among younger people age 15-18 to inspire them to pursue ecological / environmental careers. The exhibition will also be open to the general public to raise awareness of the both the subject and the impact Scotland has had on the development of global environmental awareness. The event/ round table is aimed at landscape and planning professionals across public and private sectors, including designers, academics and policy make

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