The way the Green New Deal might be administered is still an open question. After all, it’s a resolution, not concrete policy. Could some of those New Deal-era agencies be reborn as tools for leading the projects of the Green New Deal? It’s an idea that Billy Fleming, director of the Ian L. McHarg Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design, explores in a recent essay in Places. The Green New Deal is “the biggest design idea in a century,” he wrote at the time, concluding, “whatever form the Green New Deal eventually takes, it will be realized and understood through buildings, landscapes, and other public works.”
The exhibition comes as the recently-launched McHarg Center takes shape and begins to tap into the growing national and international conversation regarding the proposed Green New Deal.
Design With Nature Now, echoing the title of McHarg’s 1969 book “Design with Nature,” takes visitors on a global tour of 25 ongoing or completed projects in 21 nations—from China to the United States, and from Columbia to New Zealand—to measure the political, environmental, and economic dimensions of landscape architecture as practiced today.
In McHarg’s wake, it’s hard not to read much of landscape architectural labor as either an endorsement or a critique of his ideology and methods. Many of his acolytes still carry his torch, exemplified by works such as OLIN’s Los Angeles River Master Plan, which directly employs land suitability methods across a 51-mile stretch of one of the nation’s most highly engineered waterways. Still, practitioners like Anne Whiston Spirn and James Corner Field Operations have challenged McHarg’s methods, arguing in various ways against the rationality of his plannerly approach and for more ethnographic and hermeneutic engagements with people and land. Spirn’s West Philadelphia Landscape Project is a career-long endeavor devoted to building community literacy and power around green infrastructure in West Philadelphia, while Field Operations’ Freshkills Park, a 2,200-acre greenbelt capping a Staten Island landfill, has been similarly slow to gestate and isn’t expected to open to the public until 2036.
The last 50 years of landscape architecture and environmental planning belong to Ian McHarg. In theory and practice, no designer has done more to stoke the public imagination or reshape the professions around the environment. And nothing captures the scope and scale of his legacy better than his landmark book, Design With Nature, published in the spring of 1969.
Fifty years after Ian McHarg’s landmark book Design With Nature (1969), Design With Nature Now comprises three parallel exhibitions, an anthology, and a major international conference featuring leading design thinkers and practitioners from around the world.
"The revival of an activist federal design bureaucracy is necessary to the success of a Green New Deal. It also presents a unique opportunity to create alternative models of practice in landscape architecture."
Visualizing climate change is a challenge that is evident in our collective inability to process, understand, and imagine what the future world will look like on a grand scale. We are told with more regularity than ever before that certain weather events are the most severe, the most catastrophic, and the most rare. But many of us around the world—those fortunate enough to have been spared from a terrible environmental disaster—don’t experience these events in a way that encourages, or demands, lifestyle change.
“I was a little surprised to see [Oceanix City] received so eagerly by the folks at the U.N. It says a lot about the depth of thought that was put into this proposal that the big idea is to take all of our poorest, most vulnerable people — climate refugees — and stick them on an island that’s out of sight and out of mind.”
Naomi Klein, Kate Aronoff, Kate Orff, David Roberts, Rhiana Gunn-Wright, Jane McAlevey, and many other leading voices in climate policy, organizing, and design will join us on Friday, September 13th for this landmark event. We fully expect this event to be at capacity. Reserve your seat today and make plans to join us!