Frederick Law Olmsted: Central Park


New York’s dramatic increase in population and urbanization made city development gridlocked, cramped, and vertical in architecture. The residents were in desperate need for an escape. Frederick Law Olmsted’s life experiences and professions allowed him to present Central Park. A naturalistic and picturesque setting directly contrasting the dreaded concrete lifestyle of New York in the 19th century.

Olmsted was well rounded through his experiences in different professions and travel. His job before designing Central Park was actually clearing and draining swamps on the actual site. Although Olmsted did not have much experience as a designer, British – American architect Calvert Vaux preferred Olmsted to be his partner due to his knowledge and intimacy with the site. The Greensward Plan was created between the two and won the design competition for Central Park.

The Greensward Plan was revolutionary in it’s naturalistic design. It separated itself from the common  imperial design for parks, which often included triumphal arcs – scaling the human down. Central Park was to become a place of escape from the city for the people; a public place that belongs to everyone. The image above shows The Music Stand located within Central Park. Here, bands would perform and people would gather. This is a time and place for leisure, self – expression, and social reform fighting strict, dense, inorganic architecture.


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