By Design – Issue 59, Fall 2022

20 FREDERICK LAW OLMSTED Frederick Law Olmsted is considered by many as the father of American landscape architecture, with the parks and communities he designed during the late nineteenth century becoming a defining aspect of life in America. “My grandparents immigrated from Italy to Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, which was one of many communities designed by the Olmsted Brothers,” says ASGCA President Jason Straka. “And when I attended Cornell University to study landscape architecture, I found it was one of the many campuses Olmsted designed. It’s amazing the number of personal connections you find to him.” Originally a journalist, Olmsted’s career in landscape design began in the 1850s, when he forged a partnership with English architect Calvert Vaux for a submission to the contest to design New York’s Central Park. Their ‘Greensward Plan’, inspired by Olmsted’s visit to the public gardens of England a few years earlier, won the contest and paved the way for the establishment of landscape architecture as a profession, as well as influential future park designs like Prospect Park in Brooklyn and the Emerald Necklace chain of parks in Boston. At places like Franklin Park in Boston and The Country Club in Brookline, Olmsted’s landscapes were found to be well suited for golf, even though Olmsted did not always warm to the idea of golf and other recreations being played in his parks. Richard Mandell, ASGCA, says: “He may never have designed a golf course, but his principles and everything he put in place, also applies in golf course architecture.” The famous ‘seven s’s of Olmsted’s design’ principles – scenery, suitability, style, subordination, separation, sanitation and service – have been studied by landscape architecture students for decades. Olmsted subscribed to the poet Alexander Pope’s adage that ‘in architecture... all must be adapted to the genius of the place.’ He sought to create designs that stayed true to the character of the land and the natural surroundings. Frederick Law Olmsted’s impact on the landscapes of America extends to its golf courses too. Landscapes lent to golf During the week of the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, ASGCA Tartan Program participant John Strawn, in collaboration with the National Park Service's Frederick Law Olmsted National History site, hosted ‘From Greensward to Putting Greens: Frederick Law Olmsted’s Influence on Golf Course Architecture’, a panel forum, including several ASGCA members, to mark the Olmsted 200 campaign, a year-long celebration organized by the National Association for Olmsted Parks and the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted. This article includes some observations from the discussion, which is available to watch in full on YouTube: watch?v=xXZBX2JBfwA