Environmental design, systems thinking, and human agency: McHarg’s ecological method and Steinitz and Rogers’s interdisciplinary education experiment

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Abstract

This article discusses two models of environmental simulation that emerged in landscape architecture with the rise of the environmental movement in the United States: Ian McHarg’s (1969) ecological method and Carl Steinitz and Peter Rogers’s (1968) systems analysis model of urbanization and change.1 Attempting to integrate a spectrum of environmental factors, both models reflect a wider use of systems thinking in design. In this way, the models exemplify tools to visualize (not control) complex environmental interactions. The mod- els attempt not to obtain equilibrium but to insert a plan- ning mechanism that could evolve with environmental conditions, allowing users a participatory and performa- tive role in the computation. The models are compared based on explicit assumptions each makes about the human role in evaluating environmental information. By combining systematic and automated processing with human judgment, the models appear objective. The article argues that this appearance of objectivity was intended to validate the planning outcome(s) from each model (a matter of reassurance) and may have served, intentionally or unintentionally, as a means of promoting the changing landscape architecture profession in the 1960s and 1970s.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-52
JournalLandscape Journal
Volume36
Issue number2
Early online date2 Aug 2018
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Aug 2018

Keywords

  • environmental simulation
  • interdisciplinary design
  • participatory design
  • environmental models

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