Sustainable Site Design and Landscape Architecture

 

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FINDING OLMSTED

 

 

Why at my age do I feel the need to understand history? History has never been of much interest to me and was always my worst subject. Maybe it was the way it was taught, so many facts and figures. Maybe because when I studied Landscape Architecture, my interest was in the modern landscapes designed by Balsley, Friedberg, Halprin and my personal favorite, Carol Johnson. The historical figures of Olmsted, Manning, and Downing were just old men with beards to me. And I pretty much felt that way my entire professional career.

 

It was not until I became president of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects that I began to focus in on Frederick Law Olmsted, not by choice but by obligation.

 

You see, Connecticut is the birthplace of Olmsted, who is affectionately referred to as FLO by his admirers. Also, the state has a FLO day and the chapter a FLO award. Therefore, as president of the chapter, I was obligated to sit in on all meetings and conference calls regarding the choice of our Olmsted award winner.

 

At one such call, an animated discussion ensued among the committee members and Norma Williams, a FLO advocate and landscape architect. She went into a dialogue about how Olmsted was influenced by his youthful interaction with the Connecticut landscape. She explained how the areas around his hometown of Hartford informed his landscape sensibility; the rolling verdant hills, the agrarian vistas and the circuitous hilly roads.

 

It suddenly occurred to me that the beauty of Connecticut had made an important contribution to the entire American landscape -- a legacy this state should honor, protect and promote. I decided at that moment that I had to find Olmsted for myself.

 

The first obvious task was to learn some background about the man. Coincidentally, I was also in charge of programming for the chapter -- so I promoted the idea of an Olmsted-centric gala for April, 2013, during which both Olmsted’s birthday and Landscape Architecture Month are celebrated. I was lucky to connect with two great presenters for that gala: 

 

The gala was a magical night and it strengthened my intrigue with the man and the legacy of FLO. I will be blogging about my journey to Find Olmsted over the summer.PLEASE JOIN ME FOR THIS ADVENTURE. I know now that history provides great insights for the future.