The Olmsted in All of Us: The Road to the Olmsted Renaissance and Looking Forward Today
In partnership with ASLA Iowa Chapter, the Iowa State University Department of Landscape Architecture will host the 2022 P.H. Elwood Lecture in Landscape Architecture presented by Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA, FAAR, president and CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, DC.
As the 200th anniversary of Frederick Law Olmsted’s birth approaches, the life of this pioneering landscape architect is increasingly celebrated. But what is the true legacy of Olmsted’s career as a designer, planner, educator, reformer, advocate, activist, inventor, innovator and influencer for today’s society?
Birnbaum will explore this question by charting the rise of the Olmsted renaissance in the mid-1960s during both the height of Modernism and the waning years of the Olmsted firm’s practice. This renewal of interest, which began with “Man and Nature: the Olmsted Exhibition” at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) on the centennial of New York City’s Central Park, was advanced by the designation of Fairsted, Olmsted’s home and office in Brookline, Massachusetts, as the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in 1980.
Two more organizations — the National Association of Olmsted Parks and the Central Park Conservancy — were founded that same year. Together, these entities became a dynamic center of ideas and energy that introduced Olmsted to a new generation of landscape architects, historians, preservation professionals and the public. An archival treasure trove of over 300,000 documents produced by the Olmsted firm further invited and enabled an unprecedented level of research, documentation and analysis of his work.
Diving deep into the meaning of the Olmsted renaissance, Birnbaum’s lecture will conclude with a call to action for the next generation of research and practice, recognizing that the deeper they go, the more relevant Olmsted’s legacy becomes.