Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "A Quest for Life"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Book Review: "A Quest for Life"

Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny

Ian McHarg, the Chester County resident notable as an environmental planner, has written an autobiography that informs while successfully capturing his bold character. Ian McHarg minces no words. He recalls the incident when he gave public testimony claiming that highway engineers seem to “have a deep insecurity as to their masculinity which can only be appeased by mutilating mute nature.” Then there was the time he criticized a Army Corps of Engineers project of dredging the Delaware River which ruined a separate Corps project aimed at flood control by suggesting those involved should consider committing hara-kiri. There was also the time, when giving a speech at an Interior Department conference, he turned to Interior Secretary Rogers Morton and called him a “bagman for the Republican Party and now, here you are, the custodian of the national environment.”

This autobiography informs us how a person of such outspokenness has emerged and gained respect. His growing up outside Glasgow, Scotland at the edge where homes met nature made him realize, at an early age, the advantages of an environment outside of blocks of treeless tenement homes. His experiences as a British army World War II combat veteran may have intensified his boldness. Possessing neither an undergraduate degree nor a high school diploma, he entered Harvard’s graduate program in Landscape Architecture by simply telegraphing them and requesting that arrangements be made for his arrival and entrance into their school. As a student, he repaid his department by becoming Chairman of the Student Council and pushing through a resolution of no confidence in his department. Upset that the Landscape Architecture faculty focused on designing gardens for the wealthy, Ian McHarg became an advocate that landscape architecture is for all. Further, he would argue, we all should respect nature.

People familiar with projects where Ian McHarg had a hand will appreciate learning more about his eventful life. Among the projects where Ian McHarg was involved include Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the creation of 110 more acres through landfill in Manhattan, the first Earth Day (then Earth Week), a park at the University of Pennsylvania, and his milestone book “Design with Nature”. Many credit “Design with Nature” as a major force in creating legislation requiring ecological considerations when planning construction. People unfamiliar with his work may still appreciate his life struggles: such as combat in Word War II, fighting tuberculosis four decades ago when survival rates were much lower, and founding the Landscape Architecture program at the University of Pennsylvania with no faculty, no office, and no students. A fascinating person has written an excellent book.


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