What considerations go into the relevance of place when informing design?

Consider three authors:

Van der Ryn, love of the land and and a respect for places.
McHarg, the attempt to universalize characteristics drawn from the Northeast.
Siry, the importance of nature study and science in changing attitudes and policies.

Compare and contrast their different subjects, specialties and approaches:

Carson -- places where indicator species dwell are clear signals of exising or ambient conditions
Van der Ryn -- A Journal of remembered designs in places, for people and events.
McHarg -- A collection of essays defining places, time, layered features, specifics and plans.
Siry -- a geographical, ecological, cultural and legal description of coastal water bodies. (places)

Authors Van der Ryn McHarg Siry
ecological principles Loss of familiar space Estuaries described
designer Landscape planner Ecological history
Descriptively provocative Authoritatively analytical Legal and cultural synthesis
links ecological design ecological planning ecological ethics

Land is not merely a section of earth or an expanse of territory, or a disturbed real-estate parcel..

Why? Because

Van der Ryn says the Earth and its varied landscapes make up a fickle, yet constant medium of expression for works of human engineering, architecture and design..
McHarg says land is a layered landscape comprised of a geological and a human prehistory that can often be deciphered from clues left behind by glaciers, erosion, vegetation, & past occupants.
Siry explains that with respect to the coast's least appreciated parcels, human ideas about estuarine marshes, waters and landscapes have undergone dramatic changes in three centuries.


McHarg explains the importance of knowledge of natural features like dunes.

What about gardens?

Don't they have literal, figurative and proverbial meaning for us?

How to go about setting priorites.


Conside that the word Weal has an etymology that reveals the importance of trees or forests, we can conclude that places may be more than the mere sums of their respective parts.

Hence: any place or places are made up of: water, energy. air, land and a related set of dimensions.

Identifying natural values.

key idea.

Van der Ryn | McHarg | Siry