Posts Tagged ‘egalitarian’


I can’t stop talking about how much I love New York’s Central Park in the morning, especially as I remember being 14 and told not to walk my aunt’s Corgi anywhere near there in the morning.

In those days, the park had fallen on hard times and wasn’t being loved and protected. Nowadays in the mornings, half the word is there — bikers, walkers, runners, dog exercisers, tennis players, baseball teams, New Yorkers doing tai chi or push-ups or taking a detour to the office surrounded by birdsong and beauty. It’s a welcoming place for people of every background and income, who mingle there unselfconsciously, often with friendly smiles.

The experience is the genius of 19th century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead and the ordinary people who supported his vision. Perhaps you have an Olmstead park near you. You do if you live near Buffalo, Niagara Falls, New York City, or Rochester in New York State, or Boston in Massachusetts, Trenton in New Jersey, Riverside in Illinois, Detroit in Michigan, Louisville in Kentucky, Milwaukee in Wisconsin, Asheville in North Carolina … the list goes on.

I took a few highlights from the Wikipedia entry on Olmstead, here.

“The design of Central Park embodies Olmsted’s social consciousness and commitment to egalitarian ideals. Influenced by [landscape architect Andrew Jackson] Downing and his own observations regarding social class in England, China, and the American South, Olmsted believed that the common green space must always be equally accessible to all citizens, and was to be defended against private encroachment. This principle is now fundamental to the idea of a ‘public park,’ but was not assumed as necessary then. Olmsted’s tenure as park commissioner in New York was a long struggle to preserve that idea. …

“Olmsted’s principles of design, generally speaking, encourage the full utilization of the naturally occurring features of a given space, its ‘genius’; the subordination of individual details to the whole so that decorative elements do not take precedence, but rather the whole space; concealment of design, design that does not call attention to itself; design which works on the unconscious to produce relaxation; and utility or purpose over ornamentation. …

“The pastoral style featured vast expanses of green with small lakes, trees and groves and produced a soothing, restorative effect on the viewer. The picturesque style covered rocky, broken terrain with teeming shrubs and creepers and struck the viewer with a sense of nature’s richness. The picturesque style played with light and shade to lend the landscape a sense of mystery.”

Above you see his characteristic use of the elephantine rocks that jut out of the Manhattan landscape. I can’t tell you how mysteriously happy these sleeping giants make me, having grown up in Rockland County, where rocks are king.

Below are my photos of one of Central Park’s fairylike bridges over a babbling brook, a musical waterfall, and a beckoning path under an arched bridge.




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