Posts Tagged ‘landscape architect’


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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Here’s a good one from The Atlantic’s City Lab on how Cleveland is turning a traffic circle into a park.

Eric Jaffe writes, “To hear Clevelanders talk, Public Square is a place you pass through to reach somewhere else. When Moses Cleaveland laid out the town in 1796, he imagined the open area at its center as a New England-style commons: a gathering space for settlers, a grazing area for livestock. …

” ‘Over the years, it just turned into more like a series of big traffic islands,’ says the landscape architect James Corner. …

“Locals who find themselves in one of the quadrants have a tough time getting to another. If the cars aren’t enough of a hindrance, the lack of things to do or see in the area is: of the square’s 10 acres, more than six are paved over with concrete or asphalt. …

“By the time Cleveland engaged Corner’s help, in 2008, many ideas for how to revamp the square had come and gone.

“They all suffered from the assumption that traffic around the site could not be disturbed. Corner came in with a bold idea: if we can’t remove the streets, let’s build an elevated park above them.

“The hilltop-park concept didn’t pan out, because of the cost and complexity, but [Land Studio executive director Ann Zoller] says it got locals reimagining Public Square as a place prioritizing people over cars. A traffic analysis determined that the city could close one of the streets and narrow the other to a passage for buses, which could be rerouted during major events. Construction started this spring on Corner’s final design, which is estimated to cost $32 million.”

Read more here on how cities are thinking about improved public spaces.

Image: James Corner Field Operations
A rendering of the new design  for Public Square in Cleveland

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