How to Design 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." In How to Create a Park, Olmsted offered suggestions on park siting and organization. Here, he continues with more detailed discussion of park design. — Editor
To "plan" something means to devise ways of effecting some particular purpose. It has not always been thought necessary to "plan" the various kinds of pleasure-grounds. With no consistent end or purpose in mind, the members of some park commissions attempt to direct from day to day and from year to year such "improvements" as they may from time to time decide upon.
That the results of this method of procedure are confused, inadequate, and unimpressive is not to be wondered at.
In order to be able to devise a consistent plan, such as may be followed during a long period of years with surety that the result will be both useful and beautiful, it is necessary, in the first place, to define as accurately as possible the ends or purposes to be achieved.
As already remarked, these ends or purposes are as numerous as are the various modes of recreation in the open air.
Thus a small tract of harbor-side land at the North End of Boston has been acquired by the park commission, in order to supply the inhabitants of a poor and crowded quarter with a pleasant resting-place overlooking the water, and with opportunities for boating and bathing.
Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...
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.
Frederick Law Olmsted designed the western terrace of the U.S. Capitol Building and associated landscaping.
Photo: Historic American Buildings Survey/ Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER)
Extra Large Image
Olmsted also designed the "Emerald Necklace," a chain of public parks in Boston, Massachusetts, that stretches in a broad semicircle from Boston Common in the north to Franklin Park in the south.
Photo: Wikipedia user Daderot
Extra Large Image
Click on thumbnail images
to view full-size pictures.