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Frederick Law Olmsted, 1822-1903 Tomorrow, after lunch, we will be visiting the Back Bay Fens, a portion of the “Emerald Necklace” of parks created for the city of Boston by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1880's. Olmsted is often cited as the founder of American landscape architecture and a key contributor to the physical layout and life of many American cities. Almost forgotten 50 years ago – his vision is relevant again today!

Frederick Law Olmsted, 1822-1903 Tomorrow, after lunch, we will be visiting the Back Bay Fens, a portion of the “Emerald Necklace” of parks created for

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Text of Frederick Law Olmsted, 1822-1903 Tomorrow, after lunch, we will be visiting the Back Bay Fens, a...

  • Slide 1
  • Frederick Law Olmsted, 1822-1903 Tomorrow, after lunch, we will be visiting the Back Bay Fens, a portion of the Emerald Necklace of parks created for the city of Boston by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1880's. Olmsted is often cited as the founder of American landscape architecture and a key contributor to the physical layout and life of many American cities. Almost forgotten 50 years ago his vision is relevant again today!
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  • A long, varied life Born in Hartford, CT; lived in various country towns after death of his mother; never formally schooled Hoped to attend Yale, but a bad case of sumac poisoning compromised his eyesight and doctors advised postponing formal study he never went back Sailed on voyages to China and Europe in the 1850's much taken with English landscapes
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  • Olmsted's life, continued In the later 1850's he made a reputation as a writer best known work probably The Cotton Kingdom an account of travels through the antebellum American South described the effects of slavery-based cotton plantation economy on the people and the landscape; a strong anti-slavery message. 1857 appointed Superintendent of projected Central Park in New York (no experience with parks; and Central Park didn't exist yet!)
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  • Life, continued In collaboration with Calvert Vaux, Olmsted created a design for Central Park and oversaw its realization off and on over the next 20 or so years. During the Civil War, he served for a time as head of U.S. Sanitary Commission (precursor of American Red Cross) ran Union military hospitals, etc.
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  • A Calling Found After the Civil War, returned to landscape architecture devoted rest of his life Planned and executed parks, college campuses, public spaces all over the U.S. Some other well (and not so well) known work: Prospect Park in Brooklyn Bushnell Park in Hartford Capitol grounds in Washington D.C. Campuses of Stanford, Wellesley, Yale, Elm Park in Worcester(!)
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  • Later Work Toward the end of his life, Olmsted founded a landscape architecture firm, continued by his sons and heirs (lasted until 1980!) Worked on Biltmore estate in Asheville, NC (one of the Vanderbilt family mansions) Involved in design of 1893 Columbian Exposition fair grounds in Chicago Retired in 1898, but suffered a mental breakdown immediately thereafter and died in Maclean Hospital in Belmont, MA (he had designed the grounds years before)
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  • Olmsted's Philosophy 1850's older American cities like New York, Boston were pretty awful places (very densely built up but no planning, inadequate sanitation, growing manufacturing areas, etc.) The more aesthetically pleasing you make a city, the more people will want to live in that city, and the happier they will be The way to make cities more aesthetically pleasing is to bring aspects of the country into them natural landscapes, vegetation, views the City Beautiful
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  • Central Park in New York Overall view from north end:
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  • Central Park Grand formal spaces
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  • Central Park Together with almost rural areas
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  • Elm Park in Worcester
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  • Effects of a Good City Park Gives everyone in the city's population (rich and poor alike) a pleasure ground (Olmsted's phrase) for quiet contemplation of nature, activities like walking, running, other sports, Trees, other vegetation can serve to minimize effects of air pollution. Open space improves quality of life and makes higher population density options like multi- story apartment buildings bearable.
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  • Urban Life Cities are much preferable to suburban sprawl from environmental perspective! Lower environmental impact Economies of scale Less need for automobiles for transportation; easier to provide public transportation We lost sight of this in the US from 1945 to the 1970's, but Olmsted's vision is coming back! Maybe recapturing his vision for cities will be a component of collapse avoidance(!)
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  • The New Urbanism A new (i.e. old!) vision of how cities can work and improve the quality of life for all -- 1. Walkability: Most things within a 10- minute walk of home and work; pedestrian friendly street design 2. Mixed use/Diversity: Mixed-use within neighborhoods, within blocks, and within buildings; Diversity of people - of ages, income levels, cultures, and races
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  • New Urbanism, continued 3. Quality Architecture & Urban Design: Emphasis on beauty, aesthetics, human comfort, and creating a sense of place; Special placement of civic uses and sites within community. Human scale architecture & beautiful surroundings nourish the human spirit/quality of life
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  • New Urbanism, continued 4. Traditional Neighborhood Structure: Discernable center and edge, public space at center, importance of quality public realm. 5. Transect planning integrates environmental thinking for habitat assessment with zoning for community design boundary between the natural and man-made disappears, enabling environmentalists to assess the design of the human habitat and urbanists to support the viability of nature.
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  • New Urbanism 6. Increased Density More buildings, residences, shops, and services closer together for ease of walking, more efficient services 7. Smarter transportation public, electric, rail options 8. Sustainability