Ian McHarg (1920-2001), the Scottish-born landscape architect, founder of the University of Pennsylvania’s landscape architecture department, and magnetic professor there, is considered the dean of ecological land-use planning. His trailblazing 1969 book, Design with Nature, became a bestseller and is still in print. Little wonder Penn’s Weitzman School of Design recently honored McHarg by creating an interdisciplinary research center in his name and organizing three exhibitions exploring his legacy.
The exhibition about McHarg himself, and his work, is the place to start.
“Ian McHarg: The House We Live In,” in Penn’s Kroiz Gallery, offers models for his landscape designs, studies of the Delaware River, a video clip of McHarg speaking passionately for ecology in the film Multiply and Subdue the Earth (shown on WHYY-TV, Channel 12, on March 9, 1969, according to an ad published the same day in the Philadelphia Inquirer that’s also displayed), and drawings for a competition he entered with the architect Oscar Stonorov to redevelop Washington Square West. Ephemera that caught my eye included a photograph of McHarg standing with his colleagues and friends on Penn’s campus, among them the architect Louis Kahn; the historian and literary critic Lewis Mumford; and the journalist and activist Jane Jacobs; handwritten letters from Mumford and Laurance Rockefeller to McHarg, and a color photograph taken in 1959 of the Cheltenham Shopping Center (later renamed the Cheltenham Square Mall and now Greenleaf at Cheltenham), showing a view of the shopping center’s formerly elegant plaza designed by McHarg.
Kroiz Gallery, Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Fisher Fine Arts Building, 220 S. 34th St., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 12 to 5 p.m. Saturdays. 215-898-8323 or www.design.upenn.edu. Through Sept. 15.
“Laurel McSherry: A Book of Days,” at Penn’s Arthur Ross Gallery, gathers several bodies of work embodying increments and accumulations of time and place that McSherry, an artist and landscape designer, made during her six-month Fulbright Fellowship at the Glasgow School of Art in 2018. McSherry’s digital drawing, “Walk Calendar,” ostensibly an abstract line drawing, maps her walks around Glasgow. Her prints, which also appear to be abstractions — and, in a sense, are — record changes of daylight in Scotland and of patterns in the two rivers that McHarg knew intimately: the River Clyde, which passed near his childhood home, Clydebank, a village on the fringes of Glasgow, and the Delaware, which the data-driven designer mapped.
Arthur Ross Gallery, Fisher Fine Arts Building, 220 S. 34th St., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 12 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 215-898-2083 or www.arthurrossgallery.org. Through Sept. 15.
With climate change moving swiftly and man-made fires raging in the Amazon, “Design With Nature Now: A Global Survey of Ecological Design in the 21st Century,” in Penn’s Meyerson Galleries, couldn’t be more relevant — or present a more compelling argument for ecologically sensitive design. This exhibition of 25 contemporary design projects from around the world, honoring the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Design with Nature, includes Africa’s Great Green Wall, the ongoing planting of a nine-mile-deep wall of trees at the edge of the Sahara Desert, begun in 2007 and spanning approximately 4,970 miles from Senegal to Djibouti, intended to combat desertification; Staten Island, New York’s Freshkills Park, launched in 2003 (completion expected in 2036), transforming what was once the largest landfill in the world into open public space; and Zandmotor, an ongoing beach replenishment program initiated in the Netherlands in 2011.
Think green, shop local, and keep your fingers crossed.
Meyerson Galleries, 210 S. 34th St. , 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 12 to 5 p.m. Saturdays. 215-898-6520 or www.design.upenn.edu. Through Sept. 15.
Since moving to Philadelphia from Athens, Ga., in 2016, Wilmington-born, Connecticut-raised Jennifer Manzella has been exploring Philadelphia on foot and bicycle, seeking out the quiet, seemingly abandoned places that may soon fall prey to development.
An exhibition of her prints at Arcadia University’s Rosedale Gallery, recently extended to Dec. 8, captures these likely soon-to-disappear sights in her small, poignant copper etching prints.
Arcadia Exhibitions, Rosedale Gallery, Arcadia University, 450 S. Easton Rd., Glenside, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. 215-572-2131 or www.gallery.arcadia.edu. Through Dec. 8.
Larry Becker Contemporary Art’s summer show, “By the Light…,” brings together a group of sublime lunar-inflected abstract paintings by Dove Bradshaw, Ruth Ann Fredenthal, Kocot and Hatton, Joseph Marioni, Anna Bogatin Ott, Tim Schwartz, John Zinsser, and others.
Larry Becker Contemporary Art, 43 N. 2nd St., summer hours on Fridays and Saturdays are variable; call ahead. 215-925-5389 or www.artnet.com/lbecker.html. Through Sept. 21.