The book Design with Nature has a laconic name, which can summarize the idea of the whole book in just three words. It should be noted at once that a crucial moment in the work of a Scottish architect and writer Ian McHarg and an American historian Lewis Mumford is not the word “design” or the word “nature,” but the fact that they are connected with the alliance “with.” This defines a particular common ground for nature’s creativity and human design, which allows for synergy between design and the natural environment. The book’s philosophical message aims to achieve the goal of survival of the human species and the planet in general. The purpose of this essay is to discuss the book Design with Nature and to identify the fundamental principles passed down by the author.
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Design with Nature traces the author’s ideas about the unity of the biosphere and man. According to McHarg and Mumford, “Our eyes do not divide us from the world but unite us with it. Let us give expression to the potential harmony of man-nature” (17). With this saying, the authors confirm the fundamental connection between human beings as species and the nature in which they coexist with other species. In the book, the writer was one of the first to show not only how nature shapes living layers but also how people can use them in urban planning.
Just as the author promotes the unity of man and nature, we can note the incredible connection within his book. It surprisingly combines theoretical chapters on urban planning with ideological guidance on how to improve human life with nature. Authors write that “In the quest for survival, success, and fulfillment, the ecological view shows the way for the man who would be the enzyme of the biosphere” (197). Thus, the authors have a clear understanding of the place of man in a changing world. It is an enzyme that will accelerate natural processes, which can have both good and bad effects.
On the other hand, Design with Nature tells not only about unity but also about the diversity of life on the planet. The book begins with a phrase that the world is full of various wonders, such as food, people, laughter, and wisdom (McHarg and Mumford 1). This leads the author to the conclusion that the world is not known. And it is difficult to disagree with this because the length of human life is usually not enough to see all the beauty created by nature.
However, in the book dedicated to the issue of urban development and enriching the regions, the authors’ aversion to the existing urban forms can be traced as well. Calling them bedlam and God’s Junkyard, McHarg, and Mumford emphasize the need to change the way cities are organized (23). It is not difficult for us to understand that the authors were wrong in their judgment about the prospects of cities. A glimpse into today’s most developed cities shows that they tend to expand in width and increase the number of green spaces.
McHarg and Mumford have managed to combine an incredible technogenic approach to creating a systematic urban design and environmental planning. Moreover, the researcher argued that houses should be designed at the same time as interior green spaces. Of the many chapters, the one where authors try to apply their ideas to a particular city in Washington is particularly memorable (McHarg and Mumford 175). The main plans include the concept of a connection between a specific district and the general tone of the city.
Combining improved environmental ethics and land use analysis, Design with Nature remains relevant to this day. It is a manifesto for future landscape designers and urbanists. The book is full of philosophical ideas of Jan McHarg and Lewis Mumford, who, trying to look into the future, laid the foundations of modern geographic information systems. Moreover, the consistent structure of the book confirms the author’s ideas about the unity of man and nature.
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McHarg, Ian L., and Lewis Mumford. Design with Nature. American Museum of Natural History, 1969.