How to Create a Park
by Frederick Law Olmsted
In May 1895, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, best known for Central Park in New York, wrote in Engineering Magazine about city parks, or "pleasure-grounds." Here, Olmsted starts by offering suggestions on park siting and organization. In a second part of the article to follow, he discusses park design in more detail. — Editor
The aggregation of men in great cities practically necessitates the common or public ownership, or control, of streets, sewers, water pipes, and pleasure-grounds. Municipal pleasure-grounds comprise all such public open spaces as are acquired and arranged for the purpose of providing favorable opportunities for healthful recreation in the open air.
As there are many modes and means of open-air recreation, so there are many kinds of public pleasure-grounds. The formal promenade or plaza is perhaps the simplest type. Broad gravel-ways well shaded by trees afford pleasant out-of-door halls where crowds may mingle in an easy social life, the value of which is better understood in Southern Europe and in Spanish America than in the United States.
Agreeable and numerous open-air nurseries and playgrounds for small children present a more complex, but perhaps more necessary, type of public ground. Very few public open spaces suitably arranged for this special purpose are to be found in American cities, and yet it goes without saying that every crowded neighborhood ought to be provided with a place removed from the paved streets, in which mothers, babies, and small children may find opportunity to rest and sleep and play in the open air.
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This article is excerpted from Frederick Law Olmsted: Essential Texts, edited by Robert Twombly, copyright © 2010, with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton. Twombly has corrected any misspellings, British and archaic spellings and punctuation, and typesetting errors in the text without indication. ArchitectureWeek has added paragraph breaks.