FrederickLawOlmsted.com
A celebration of the life and work of Frederick Law Olmsted, founder of American landscape architecture.

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...Frederick Law Olmsted's work has passed the test of time; his work in Druid Hills set the stage and continues to influence metro Atlanta...
-Tina Fountain




Olmsted's Philosophy

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.

Olmsted sought to advance a feeling of communitiveness, which is a sense of shared community and dedicated service to the community among people. His concept of the role of the landscape architect was as broad as his social and political concerns. Olmsted saw his profession as the a way to shape the American city by designing public parks and park systems to meet a wide range of recreational needs.

Olmsted had high expectations for his design's psychology and visual effects on people. He believed that the perfect antidote to the stress and artificialness of urban life was a nice stroll through a pastoral park. He foresaw places with graceful undulating greensward and scattered growths of trees. He believed and promoted the idea that such an environment would promote a sense of tranquility. Olmsted's vision was that the sense of calmness that would come from the park by his separation of the different landscape themes and conflicting uses.

Olmsted applied these principles of separation and subordination more consistently than any other landscape architect of his era. Subordination was accomplished in his parks where carefully constructed walks and paths would flow through landscape with gentle grades and easy curves, thus requiring the viewer's minimal attention to the process of movement. At the same time, many of the structures that Olmsted incorporated into his parks merge with their surroundings. Separation is accomplished in his park systems by designing large parks that were meant for  the enjoyment of the scenery. Smaller recreational areas for other activities and where "park ways" handle the movement of pedestrians and vehicular traffic offset these large parks.

As a designer, Olmsted drew upon the influences of American natural scenery. He also drew heavily on the social structure and value system of his native region. Another huge influence was Andrew Jackson Downing, (1815-1852) who was probably the greatest promoter of the "modern method of building," which was rural improvement.

Olmsted believed that the rural, picturesque landscape contrasted with and counteracted the confining and unhealthful conditions of the crowded urban environment and served to strengthen society by providing a place where all classes could mingle in contemplation and enjoyment of the pastoral experience. He sought to screen his "pleasure grounds" completely from the intrusions of daily life by screening them with thick plantings along their borders, separating and excluding commercial traffic, and discouraging all usage of the grounds which were not in harmony with this goal. He also strove to bring the landscape as close to as much of the urban population as possible, so that all could benefit from it.

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