Often seen as the founding father of the landscape architecture profession, Frederick Law Olmsted is probably known by every living landscape architecture professional, landscape student, enlightened landscape designer and gardener. He has designed large landscape gardens and park systems all over the country. But for us in this region of the country, he is best known for Central Park in NYC, Prospect Park in Brooklyn NY and Boston’s own Linked park system known as the ‘Emerald Necklace’ which includes The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.
I had my first exposure / experience with his work on the U.S. Capital grounds. For years as a boy I walked and picnicked on the grounds of the U.S. Capital with my family and friends. I always appreciated the park like setting but never thought about how it came to be. Not until my education at George Washington University did I learn the details of the grounds and its’ maker Frederick Law Olmsted.
Mr. Olmsted believed that parks should be places where people of all walks of life could go to escape their daily lives, to unwind and add freshness to their lives and to promote a sense of tranquility. His parks are all over America. Their styling is timeless and year after year they are still doing the job of helping people cope with their daily lives. Just type his name into Google and you will probably find one of his masterpieces just a short drive away.
Nature Used in the Abstract
A while ago I owned a handsome town home in Historic Leesburg VA. It had a simple flat faced light brown brick front. There were 5 windows across the first floor and 5 windows across the second floor. It was free of today’s post modern brick-a-bract. I named my home Arcadia which means “a very pleasant place or scene”. It gave me, my neighbors, and passers by pleasure on multiple levels.
I designed it by using elements in nature that I had experienced. A few memories that come to mind; winding paths, the wind blowing in the tree tops, sunlight reflecting off of bodies of water, shadows and light slipping through trees in a forest and across large weather worn boulders. These few experiences made me feel good. So I recalled them and distilled them into a pleasing design and garden for the front of my home. I suppose you would call this design process an “emotional aesthetic”. And isn’t that what it’s really all about.
Our gardens should not only include plants and hardscape they should also include the sky, clouds, wind, rain and time. These elements are brought into the garden in the abstract by way of texture, movement, color, shadows and light. A garden designed with these elements will pull you in and include you as an integral part of the emotional aesthetic.
And it feels nice to be included.