April 2022 marked the bicentennial of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.’s birth. Although many still do not know that there is no “A” in his name, and that there were three Olmsted’s. His impact on the profession – and the public – from coast-to-coast – is still not fully understood. Olmsted-designed landscapes are more than picturesque scenery and public grounds for society’s use and enjoyment.
This presentation draws on forty years of professional practice – incorporating big ideas, anecdotes, and aims to lift the veil on those in Olmsted’s practice and his successor firms from 1857-1979 (beyond those named Olmsted). Additionally, the presentation will address how the Olmsted practice served as the definer and proselytizer of the professional discipline that Sr. named, how the firm came to define what a corporate practice should look like and how it should function and how landscape architects need to seize the opportunity to lead and orchestrate from the planning of cities and campuses to getting involved early and siting the building architecture.
Olmsted introduced new typologies (parkway, park system), he recognized that landscape was Infrastructure and that a thorough understanding of soils and water (from watersheds and hydrology to soil remediation) was essential. He understood landscapes and cities to be dynamic, possessing intertwined systems that could be guided and shaped, and the idea of managing change.
Finally, the presentation concludes with reflections of how we can steward Olmsted’s ideas and built works today – from a deeper and broader cultural context to supporting and collaborating with individuals and organizations who are working in their communities to engage with Olmsted and his legacy.
Charles’ most recent book Experiencing Olmsted The Enduring Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted's North American Landscapes (Timber Press, 2022) will be available for purchase.
This lecture is offered in collaboration with ICAA Southeast and the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance, Atlanta, Georgia. Olmsted Linear Park is a 45-acre greenspace and old-growth forest that meanders along Ponce de Leon Avenue. The Druid Hills neighborhood and the park were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 1890’s. The Olmsted Linear Park Alliance oversees the management and preservation of the park.