Friday, August 7, 2009

Designer of the Month: Frederick Law Olmsted

For me, the summertime is all about being outdoors. During my childhood in South Florida, this meant lots of swimming, either in the pool or at the beach, as it was too hot and humid to be outside for too long unless you were in the water. While New York certainly gets hot and steamy, especially in the city, and while I still enjoy a beach day every once in a while, these days, summer to me means eating outside, that perfect late evening light that occurs in the hour or so before sunset, and hanging out in the park. So who better to choose as my August Designer of the Month than someone who spent his career outsider, the father of landscape architecture himself, the man behind many, many city parks including both Central Park and Prospect Park (week 2), visionary designer of the grounds for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition (aka The Chicago World's Fair - week 3), and landscaper of the fabulous Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC (week 4), Mr. Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903). And speaking of the Biltmore, here's a portrait of Olmsted, as depicted by John Singer Sargent, which is on display at the Estate:

Portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted by John Singer Sargent. Courtesy of the Art Renewal Center.

I love Sargent's depiction of Olmsted out in Nature (and yes, it was always Nature, with a capital N). Olmsted was a man with a vision, one that involved carefully sculpted landscapes, and his designs were created with the long-term look of how the landscape would continue to grow and change in mind. His work was created to last, which it certainly has. Take, for instance, Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn...

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