Looking at Olmsted and His Legacy

A new television documentary on Frederick Law Olmsted looks at the legacy of his Central Park and the sometimes serendipitous way he was able to leave an impact on the urban landscape of the U.S.
April 22, 2011, 10am PDT | Nate Berg
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This review from The New York Times focuses on the role of designers in creating public spaces.

"More than a century after his death in 1903, the urban landscapes he created, first and most famous among them Central Park, are still giving vast, diverse populations a connection to nature amid a sea of concrete. "Olmsted and America's Urban Parks," a documentary by Rebecca Messner showing Wednesday on PBS, helps you appreciate just how visionary Olmsted and his undercredited partner in Central Park and other projects, Calvert Vaux, were at a time when the idea that cities need parks was not firmly established.

Ms. Messner's documentary is nothing fancy, but the life it chronicles certainly was, a blend of genius, determination and occasional happenstance. As the film notes, Olmsted might never have landed the Central Park job had a more prominent landscape designer, Andrew Jackson Downing, not been killed when the steamship Henry Clay burned on the Hudson River in 1852. But Olmsted, though his early career was as a journalist, found himself in the right place at the right time, and his and Vaux's design for the park was chosen in 1858. "

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Published on Thursday, April 21, 2011 in The New York Times
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