Ian McHarg, founder of Penn's architecture department, will accept the prestigious Japan Prize. As a young boy growing up in Scotland, Ian McHarg possessed a profound passion for nature. At age 16, he became a landscape architect's apprentice. He then began on his path to establishing himself as perhaps the most respected regional planner of today, designing such projects as Baltimore's Inner Harbor. "I had been deeply moved by nature as a young boy," said McHarg,79, professor emeritus of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning and the original founder of the department, in an unmistakable Scottish brogue. "I am now a very old man, and I am still overwhelmed by it." Throughout his career, McHarg has won a slew of prizes, including the Harvard Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Medal of Art -- presented by former President George Bush in 1992 -- and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture from the University of Virginia. Adding yet another accolade to his repertoire, McHarg will travel to Tokyo in April to receive the Japan Prize in city planning. Presented annually to scientists and researchers who have made a contribution to mankind, the distinction includes a certificate of merit, a medal and a cash award of approximately $482,000. The week-long ceremony will be attended by the prime minister of Japan as well as the emperor and empress. The University Trustees expressed their gratitude for McHarg's contributions to the field of city planning at their meeting last week, passing a resolution of appreciation for him. After graduating from Harvard in 1950 with both a bachelor's and master's degree, McHarg was invited to Penn by G. Holmes Perkins, past chairman of planning at Harvard and then-dean of the Penn Graduate School of Fine Arts. For 32 years, McHarg headed the department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. During his chairmanship, McHarg was also a partner in a private planning practice. His project credits include Amelia Island in Florida and Pardisan in Iran. Recognized as one of the first advocates of the inclusion of ecological factors in structural planning, McHarg is known for combining such sciences as geology, hydrology and marine biology into his planning. He explained that in planning strategy, "before [me] socio-economic boundaries were considered almost exclusively." McHarg counts teaching as perhaps his greatest passion. "It has been a wonderful podium for me to use as an advocate of the environment," he noted. His only regret is that he is not able to teach more. "I teach one course per year, and I grind my teeth in chagrin because I know that I am as good as I was 10 years ago, maybe even better, and it offends me that I am so limited," he said. McHarg is also not thrilled with the emeritus title that he was granted after stepping down as chairman of the department in 1985. "I think the title [Professor Emeritus] suggests senility and hopelessness," he said. An author, a poet, an architect, a planner and a father, McHarg now lives with his wife Carol and their two sons, 12 and 17, in a converted schoolhouse that his wife restored in Unionville, Pa. His book, Design With Nature, focuses on the incorporation of environmental factors into architecture and planning and, according to McHarg, continues to be a "badge of the environmental movement." His newest book, Some Songs to the Stars, a volume of 25 collected poems, is scheduled to come out within the year. He continues to lecture on a regular basis. "I hope not to retire," McHarg said with simplicity. "May I persist to the last."Comments powered by Disqus
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