OLMSTED: THE CONNECTION

A LOOK BACK TO SEE IMPROVEMENT OF LIFE IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM

HISTORICAL POWER MANIPULATION

Many years ago, say a thousand or so, formal castle and estate gardens

 were generally constructed with geometric configurations such as the

garden at Hadrian's Roman Villa back in back in 100 AD. Even in 1700,

the manipulation of nature in the garden was seen as an important way to

symbolize a ruler's power not only over his subjects but over nature

illustrated in French garden of Louis XIV at Versailles for example.

APPRECIATION OF THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

On the other hand, the 1800's offered a transformation from considering

the natural world's mountains and streams as obstacles to magnets of

beauty providing participants aesthetic delight. Garden vistas were

composed in England with integrated sweeping lawns, water, hills and

even mountain trails to stroll. Birkenhead Park started in 1843 brought

a naturalistic flavor to the city. It was acclaimed for its social

enhancements in an area filled with the offensive components of

industry. A visit to this park in particular amazed Olmsted in 1850

calling it a "people's garden". In the United States, the Catskill and

Pocono Mountains, and even Feltsville, that historic village in Union

County, were evolving as popular retreats for "city people". Olmsted

believed it should be possible to create convenient "country parks" for

the exploding urban population in New York City and other areas of the

nation. The accuracy of that line of thinking is made apparent by the

popularity of Central Park

 

THE NATURAL PARK CONSEQUENCE

 

The wonders of nature as the season's changes could be appreciated by

many people in a park. The current popularity of our national park

system continues witness to the fact that even in the computer age, many

people want to see, hear and feel the glories of natural beauty.

Recently a friend of mine moving from western New Jersey indicated he

was alarmed that so much of that natural remaining landscape would soon

be destroyed to accommodate new houses and streets. Is there an

alternative to this vast destruction of farm and woodland? With the ever

increasing hurry and time pressure of today's living, finding a location

with simplicity and serenity can be a pivotal to our well being. The

ability to escape from the noise and congestion of the harsh edges of

city life has, over the years, produced an antidote, a healing garden.

Could the wise use of our natural land resources be the pivotal heritage

we leave for our children?

 

EXTENDING THE PRINCIPLE TO TODAY'S CONCERNS

 

Central Park in New York could be thought of as a type of "cluster

development". This concept encourages building construction that is

clustered, or built with greater density while saving part of the site

for community appreciation and recreation. This concept was actually

employed in the 1920's when the community of Radburn, N.J. was planned

with homes and cars separated from the central green. Walking the paths,

sled riding and many other sport activities occur here. Planned Unit

Developments [PUD] carried the central green one step further in New

Jersey and other states where designed with open space surrounded by

residences, commercial interests and office buildings are situated

within easy commute.

 

 

 

 

PRINCIPLES OF GOOD DESIGN

WHAT QUALITIES MAKE CENTRAL PARK SO SPECIAL?

 

Our appreciation of a landscape scene is mainly a visual one. Our eyes

can smoothly flow though a harmonious landscape much as the ear

comprehends good music or the mind successfully unravels the theme of a

play. There should be continuity, related parts dancing as part of the

whole creation. This is Central Park, a series of discoveries that can

achieve surprise or learning power that are of greater value to an

observer than a garden of clutter. A variety of outdoor spaces

accommodate different personal moods for rest or entertainment with the

seasonal interest that provides the outdoor room's wall paper. Including

a spirit of adventure, exploration, and change as the landscape grows

and flowers, provides the atmosphere to achieve personal satisfaction.

 

BRINGING IT HOME

HOW CAN WE CREATE A SPECIAL PLACE FOR LIVING today using the ideas from

the past?

 

Landscape architecture, which addresses both the design and stewardship

of the land, integrates human participation into this resource. This

residential site in Mountainside, New Jersey is used to illustrate how

the principles of inspiring park design can be applied to your home.

Whether site amenities are preserved or created the spirit of natural

harmony can be attained. Grade changes add interest, paths encourage

participation, special water features offer sound and visual highlights,

the smooth curves create a more restful flow than sharp angles, plants

are used to instill intrigue and privacy while the open terrace ties in

with the vista's freedom. Here beautiful sounds, changes in levels,

multiple vistas, plant interest integrate the dwelling with life

outdoors.

 

SUMMARY

 

In the world of creating environments for well being, Olmsted set a

precedent fostering the spirit of community. Whether a place requires

home site design, town and park development or larger scale endeavors,

many of Olmsted's original strategies for harmonizing people with the

land using landscape architecture are valid even after the 100 years!

 

Richard Jurgens - an inspired member

American Society of Landscape Architects

2666 Sky Top Drive

Scotch Plains, New Jersey 07076

908 232-7700

4/30/00