What architect so noble…as he who, with far-reaching conception of beauty, in designing power, sketches the outlines, writes the colors, becomes the builder and directs the shadows of a picture so great that Nature shall be employed upon it for generations, before the work he arranged for her shall realize his intentions. – Frederick Law Olmsted http://www.fredericklawolmsted.com/
One of N. Americas most famous parks is Central Park in New York City. We visited on our NY tour and, as always, are thrilled with how spectacular The Park truly is. On a gorgeous spring day like we had, the Park is especially luscious. Naturally, the Blossoms wanted their photo taken there, so we acted as all good tourist do, and added ourselves to the composition of photo taking couples! Central park is a garden oasis in the middle of a large city that bustles and tussles all the time. Olmsted’s Philosophy about his work is so powerfully correct about Central Park (one of his own creations) that it is a true tribute to his life and work.
“Olmsted’s main goal, no matter what he was doing was to attempt to improve American society. He had visions of vast recreational and cultural achievements in the hearts of cities. He did not see parks as just vast meadows, but rather he saw them as places of harmony; places where people would go to escape life and regain their sanity. He wanted these parks to be available to all people no matter what walk of life the person followed.” www.fredericklawolmsted.com/philos.html
I am curious, how does this compare to a painting, a photograph, or a sculpture? Olmsted saw parks as places of harmony. As I think about a piece of ART and that it is usually created for/with, harmony/angst, and/or to provoke thought. True? If that is so, and a park is a place that empowers the harmony, then a garden (a park is often/usually a garden) IS A WONDERFUL ART FORM. A garden encompasses many of your senses. Flowers have beautiful colors, scents, shapes and sizes. Garden walkways, and “hardscapes” can create direction or paths for our imaginations. Gardens water features can give sound, provoke a feeling of tranquility, a place to gaze and reflect. A garden by association is usually a place to sit back, to enjoy nature and it’s beauty. I have always believed that a garden is indeed ART, and a beautiful garden is a Masterpiece of Art!
The folks that design our large public parks are usually Landscape Architects. One of the “greats” was Frederick Law Olmsted. “Olmsted was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1822. Between 1837 and 1857, Olmsted performed a variety of jobs: he was a clerk, a sailor in the China trade, and a farmer, as well as many other professions. He moved to New York in 1848 and in 1857, without having ever had any college education, Olmsted became the superintendent of New York’s Central Park.
As the superintendent of the park he served as the administrator and then architect-in-chief of Central Park’s construction. Next, he served as the administrative head of the US Sanitary Commission, which was the forerunner of the American Red Cross. Finally his last job, before forming his own firm, was that of the manager of the vast Mariposa gold mining estate in California.
In addition to designing for urban life, Olmsted was anxious to preserve areas of natural beauty for future public enjoyment. He served as the first head of the commission in charge of preserving Yosemite Valley and was a leader in establishing the Niagara Reservation, which he planned with Calvert Vaux, in 1887.
Between 1872 and 1895, when he retired, Olmsted’s firm carried out 550 projects. These projects included college campuses, the grounds to the US Capitol, and residential communities.” www.fredericklawolmsted.com/bioframe.htm
If you are in the Boston MA area today (May 12) here is great chance to learn more. Film: The Olmsted Legacy: America’s Urban Parks.
This documentary explores the formation of America’s great city parks, including Boston’s own Emerald Necklace, through the eyes of 19th Century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The film traces the life of Olmsted: his early struggles in school, his personal tragedies and his unorthodox career path. Olmsted and his firm carried out more than 500 commissions, nearly 100 of which were public parks.His work includes the linear park system that stretches from the Back Bay Fens to Franklin Park known as the Emerald Necklace. A panel discussion, moderated by Julie Crockford, President, Emerald Necklace Conservancy, will follow the screening. The panelists will be Alan Banks, Supervisory Park Ranger, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site; Margaret Dyson, Director of Historic Parks, Boston Parks and Recreation; and Betsy Shure Gross, Board Member, City Parks Alliance and co-founder of the National Association for Olmsted parks. For more information on the documentary, visit www.theolmstedlegacy.org.
Fee $10 Offered with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy www.emeraldnecklace.org/ Like films? Like Gardens? Like learning new stuff? Check it out!