The Landscape Guide

Landscape Design Theory RESOURCES: Design Objectives Ecology, Community, Delight, Archetypes, Design MethodsStructuralism & Design, Community Design, Single Tree Principle, Design with nature, Master Plans,

'Design with nature'

Ian Mcharg used Design with nature as the title for his brilliant book on landscape planning. The title was original but the idea behind the book was ancient. In western philosophy, it derives from Plato's Theory of Forms. Plato argued that artists should not try to reproduce the 'real world' in their work. Instead, they should use reason and observation to learn as much as possible about the world of the forms. St Augustine and Plotinus gave a Christian slant to the theory and it came to be described as Neoplatonic. It was revived with the rebirth of classical learning known as the Renaissance and became known as the Ideal Theory of Art. With the development of empirical science the 'nature' in the axiom that 'art should imitate nature' became the real world. It was a reversal of Plato's view. But with the growth of evolutionary science in the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries the 'nature' in the axiom became 'the laws of nature'. This was a return towards Plato's view and in McHarg's book, it became the theory that landscape planners should work 'with' the forces of nature, recognizing the place of men and women as part of the natural world. McHarg had a particular dislike for the Christian view that man is 'better' than other living things and destined to have dominion over them.