Saturday, November 1, 2014

On Early American Landscape Architecture

On Early American Landscape Architecture: In the 1850s, American architects began to consider the importance of landscape design in urban planning. Cities like Boston and New York were becoming overcrowded due to the influx of European immigrants (mostly Irish). These cities needed more housing (tenements), more infrastructure (sewers), more streets, and more open spaces. Textile, shoe, and steel factories had begun to dominate urban landscapes, and thus, make city life rather uncomfortable. Often deemed the "father" of American landscape architecture, Andrew Jackson Downing was originally drawn to the design and construction of homes. He believed that people's moral dispositions were firmly tied to their living circumstances. But from his work on home design, he started to understand the significance of landscaping. And until his death in 1852 from a steamboat explosion on the Hudson River, he was considered the front-runner for designing New York's Central Park. That duty later fell to Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., who in 1858, won a design competition to expand Downing's plans. As a committed egalitarian idealist, Olmsted concluded that every New Yorker should have equal access to the park. Such an idea was quite radical in the 1850s, especially since some urban parks had been reserved for private functions in certain neighborhoods (e.g. - New York's Gramercy Park).

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