AMES, Iowa — Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA, FAAR, president and CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, DC, will present the 2022 P.H. Elwood Lecture in Landscape Architecture at Iowa State University.

Birnbaum’s lecture, “The Olmsted in All of Us: The Road to the Olmsted Renaissance and Looking Forward Today,” will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 1, in the Reiman Ballroom at the ISU Alumni Center.

Part of the ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) Iowa Spring Conference, his presentation is open to the public.

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.

About the speaker

Birnbaum established The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) in 1998 to educate and engage the public to make our shared landscape heritage more visible, identify its value and empower its stewards. Since then, TCLF has promoted cultural landscapes to myriad communities through educational workshops, conferences, programs, databases and publications. In 2021, TCLF unveiled the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Prize in Landscape Architecture, a permanently endowed prize with a $100,000 purse.

Prior to creating TCLF, Birnbaum spent 15 years as coordinator of the National Park Service Historic Landscape Initiative and a decade in private practice in New York City with a focus on cultural landscapes and urban design.

Birnbaum has authored and edited numerous publications, including Modern Landscapes: Transition and Transformation (Princeton Press), Shaping the American Landscape (UVA Press), Design with Culture (UVA Press), Preserving Modern Landscape Architecture (Spacemaker Press) and the forthcoming Experiencing Olmsted (Timberpress).

Birnbaum was a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard GSD and a Rome Prize recipient. He was awarded the ASLA LaGasse Medal in 2008, ASLA President’s Medal in 2009 and the ASLA Medal (the organization’s highest honor) in 2018. He has taught landscape architecture at Harvard GSD (2020–present), Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture (2011–2016) and Ohio State University (2007). From 2010–18 he was a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post.

He is a Fellow of the ASLA and of the American Academy in Rome.

About the lecture

The P.H. Elwood Lecture in Landscape Architecture was established in 1997 to honor the legacy of professor emeritus Philip H. Elwood, who is credited with developing the ISU Department of Landscape Architecture at Iowa State University. The lecture series brings renowned professional practitioners to the Iowa State campus as guest lecturers each year.



Charles Birnbaum, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, charles@tclf.org
Carl Rogers, Landscape Architecture, (515) 294-5334, rogersc@iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, 515-294-9289, hsauer@iastate.edu