Frederick Law Olmsted


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One of the most important landscape-architects of C19 after Downing's death, he developed the C18 English Picturesque style of landscape, and was an innovator in the design of public parks, much influenced by Paxton's Birkenhead Park, Ches. (1847), as is clear from his admiration for English landscape-design, expressed in his Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England (1852).

With Calvert Vaux (who had been associated with Downing) he created Central Park, NYC (from 1858), an ingenious scheme with a wide variety of types of landscape, including rock-work with cascades, meadows and water, and traffic-routes sunk from view, with paths over and under them as the grade required. He designed the campus for the College of California at Berkeley, Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, CA (1864), and proposed creating a nature-reserve in the Yosemite Valley, a precedent for the National Parks movement. Again with Vaux he designed Prospect Park, Brooklyn (1865–73), resumed work on Central Park, and planned Riverside, near Chicago, IL (1868), which proposed dwellings around common land, parks, and the beginnings of a scheme that anticipated pedestrian routes. He began the landscaping around the Federal Capitol, Washington, DC (1874), his work being completed by his son F. L. Olmsted, jun. (1870–1957), in the 1920s, who continued to practise with the elder Olmsted's adopted stepson, John Charles Olmsted (1852–1920).

Persuaded to settle in Massachusetts by H. H. Richardson (with whom Olmsted had collaborated on the design of the State Asylum for the Insane, Buffalo, NY (1871), and on other projects) in 1881, Olmsted had commenced designs for the system of parks in Boston in 1878, a brilliant scheme forming a meandering trail of greenery and water connecting Charles River to Franklin Park. He contributed to the designs of the campus of Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA (1886), worked with Vaux on the Niagara Falls Reservation, NY (1887), and designed the Louisville Park system, KY (1891). His last large scheme was the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago (1893), where he created a sylvan setting for the Neo-Classical buildings of McKim, Mead, & White, Daniel Burnham, and others. Olmsted's system of transport, roads, and jetties for water-borne visitors was, like most of his work, forward-looking, imaginative, and inventive. He was a prolific writer, and published numerous works of considerable importance.

Beveridge (1995);Burley et al . (1996);C. Cook (1972);I. Fisher (1986);L. Hall (1995);LeG&S (1996);McLaughlin (ed.) (from 1977);Olmsted & Hubbard (eds.) (1973);Placzek (ed.) (1982);Roper (1973);E. Stevenson (2000);Sutton (ed.) (1979);Todd (1982);Jane Turner (1996);W&S (1994)

Subjects: Art.

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