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Frederick Law Olmsted and the Dialectical Landscape

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Emily Handelman

on 11 October 2013

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Transcript of Frederick Law Olmsted and the Dialectical Landscape

Frederick Law Olmsted and the Dialectical Landscape
Robert Smithson
Source: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-x1CnoDhVg8o/TcoqjP5zoNI/AAAAAAAAAMg/K4hzkjh53ug/s1600/spiral+jetty.jpg
Source: http://www.olmsted.org/storage/images/FLO_Papers_Images/02_About_The_Project/Order_Books/72_OlmstedSRhead.jpg
Frederick Law Olmsted
a method of examining and discussing opposing ideas in order to find the truth

a way to overcome dualism--requires that both sides are thought of at the same time

develop a
and contradictory antithesis--through dialectical reasoning, they are combined into a coherent synthesis
(new thesis)
Origins of Olmsted's View of Landscape
William Gilpin
Uvedale Price
temporal landscape
beauty and sublime in ecological succession
"Inherent in the theories of Price and Gilpin, and in Olmsted's response to them, are the beginnings of a dialectic of the landscape."
"...related to the chance and change in the material order of nature."
"...far from being an inner movement of the mind, is based on real land..."
Historic American Parks and Contemporary Needs
Catharine Ward Thompson
Research Professor of Landscape Architecture
Founder & Director
Edinburgh College of Art
University of Edinburgh
OPENspace Research Centre
"The research centre for inclusive access to outdoor environments"
"This article is an attempt to understand and evaluate a particular landscape type over time:
the large, nineteenth-century urban park of America's eastern seaboard."
The Park as a Democratic Place
The Park as a Historic Work of Art
The Park as Nature
The Park as Educator
The Park as Paradise
Olmsted's Parks
characteristic circulation systems--separation of roads, footpaths, and bridleways to enhance "picturesque passages" of scenery
Prototype: Birkenhead Park, Liverpool
combination of pond or lake, woodland and meadow
design appropriate and durable?
Park planners and managers use the evolving prototype of Olmsted's Parks as a starting point to create management plans.
Questions arise when using old plans in modern context:
users needs?
who are the users?
How do we answer these questions?
historic attitudes
current attitudes
examples from parks
historic attitudes
current attitudes
"The park was seen as a democratic place where democracy meant conformity and a means to a unified nation." --> MELTING POT
"...pluralism rather than conformity is the catchword, and this implies a diversity in needs, attitudes, and provisions."--> SALAD BOWL
Still a central paradigm for urban parks--sets the CONTEXT in which all other paradigms are considered.
historic attitudes
current attitudes
Olmsted "wanted to use landscape art to meet human needs"
Different aspects of a park's design have been emphasized at different points in history.
Early 1980s -- saw an emphasis on the park as a historic work of art
historic attitudes
current attitudes
Created naturalistic landscapes in VISUAL composition.
Olmsted's palette was NOT exclusively native!
Believed that the park was an "escape" from the city--good for health.
Kaplan and Kaplan!
Landscape ecology principles--patch size
historic attitudes
current attitudes
learning socially and environmentally appropriate skills and manners
physical education
nature study & scientific observation
Still considered huge educational resource.
Providing modern educational opportunities in historic parks presents design issues (sports structures, natural play, funding...)
historic attitudes
current attitudes
"From earliest times, garden and paradise have been synonymous in iconography and symbolism"
"...paradise is a tamed and productive place where the trees are familiar and the context unthreatening."
Need to understand the cultural dimensions of preference so that parks can be welcoming to all.
Ecological and conservation science has altered our view of what paradise might look like.
so many in the article -- take a peek for yourself ;)
Main Ideas
park as the embodiment of cultural pluralism
participatory planning,
extending range of park uses,
educational purposes
"patches" of park use, rotations
ecotype stability
be aware of how this is framed and subsequently used
ecological principles guiding management
"What is vital is that these premises are clearly articulated and not masked in the rhetoric of historical accuracy or ecological purity."
smoothness, gentle curves, and delicacy of nature
terror, solitude, and vastness of nature
"We cannot take a one-sided view of the landscape within this dialectic. A park can no longer be seen as 'a thing-in-itself,' but rather as a process of ongoing relationships....the park becomes a 'thing for us'."
Big Idea
Discussion Questions
Do you get it? How do you see the landscape dialectic unfolding? are there any good local examples? or studio projects?
"The authentic artist cannot turn his back on the contradictions that inhabit our landscapes."
Smithson suggests that ecologists take a lesson from Price and Olmsted -- what is to be learned?
"The side of a smooth green hill, torn by floods, may at first very properly be called deformed...When a rawness of such a gash in the ground is softened, and in part concealed and ornamented by the effects of time, and in the progress of vegetation, deformity, by this usual process, is converted into picturesqueness..." --Price
How do you see social education taking place in parks today? What are parks trying to teach today?
how much should we refer to historic prototypes? how do we define the "change" threshold?
issues of accessibility
changing needs of users
proposal that some parks are too big and that they could be "edged and infilled with housing, community gardens, sports fields..." -- thoughts
Thompson brings up ecology principles (patch size, ecotones, succession, biodiversity) and how they are influencing or could influence park management and design. -- How do you feel about using these principles in the management of historic parks? What about modern parks?
Reverence of history
"Nature for the dialectician is indifferent to any formal ideal."
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sir_Uvedale_Price,_1st_Baronet.jpg
Source: http://austenonly.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/487px-william_gilpin_by_henry_walton.jpg
Source: Central Park Country: A Tune Within Us
Source: Central Park Country: A Tune Within Us
Source: Central Park Country: A Tune Within Us
Source: Central Park Country: A Tune Within Us
Source: Central Park Country: A Tune Within Us
Souce: http://www.openspace.eca.ac.uk/researchteam_cthompson.php
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