Frederick Law Olmstead and the Creation of Central Park – The Atlantic

When I was a child it was easy to arrange my crayons in order, like the rainbow, yellow next to orange, next to red, next to purple, next to blue etc. but very difficult to arrange colors so that no color had a color next to it that contained that color.

[Reminds me of your discovering how difficult it is to make a rock arrangement seem “random”.] An unmistakable irony creeps vinelike through Olmsted’s landscape theory: It takes a lot of artifice to create convincing “natural” scenery. Everything in Central Park is man-made; the same is true of most of Olmsted’s designs. They are not imitations of nature so much as idealizations, like the landscape paintings of the Hudson River School. Each Olmsted creation was the product of painstaking sleight of hand, requiring enormous amounts of labor and expense. In his notes on Central Park, Olmsted called for thinning forests, creating artificially winding and uneven paths, and clearing away “indifferent plants,” ugly rocks, and inconvenient hillocks and depressions—all in order to “induce the formation … of natural landscape scenery.” He complained to his superintendents when his parks appeared “too gardenlike” and constantly demanded that they “be made more natural.”

(August 11, 2016 at 03:42PM)

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