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John Charles Olmsted

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Portrait of John Charles Olmsted
Portrait of John Charles Olmsted

John Charles Olmsted (1852–1920), was an American landscape architect. The nephew and adopted son of Frederick Law Olmsted, he worked with his father and younger brother, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., in their father's firm. After their father retired, the brothers took over leadership and founded Olmsted Brothers as a landscape design firm. The firm became well-known for designing many urban parks, college campuses, and other public places. John Olmsted's body of work from over 40 years as a landscape architect has left its mark on the American urban landscape.

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  • ✪ Olmsted Lecture: Charles Waldheim, "A General Theory"
  • ✪ Frederick Law Olmsted Lecture: Aaron Sachs
  • ✪ Landscape Urbanism


Good evening and welcome. It's a great pleasure to welcome you to what promises to be a wonderful lecture by Professor Charles Waldheim. As you know, Charles has just recently completed a six-year term as the chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture. And I think during these past six years, he's really done an extraordinary job working with colleagues both in the Department of Landscape Architecture, but across the school with other colleagues to really help construct an incredible array of programs, ideas, and projects. Tonight's lecture, I think in some ways it's interesting to see it in connection with the lecture that Farshid Moussavi gave last week. Because these are the first two lectures of the semester. And I think in their own way, each describes the idea of how one works within the context of a particular discipline. In the case of Farshid, she really utilized or used her work on the function of style as a way of entering the field of architectural practice today and what it's like to be an architect and what are the kinds of ways or manners or methods that one might utilize to engage in architectural practice. And I see, even though Charles and I haven't really discussed this directly, I see tonight's lecture having a certain kind of parallel in relation to landscape architecture, but also broadly to questions of planning and the discussion of sort of urbanization more broadly. I think it's clear that over the last 10 or 15 years, there's been more and more conversations about the methods of landscape architecture. And in the case of Charles' work and his writings, the correlations between those methods and really the methods of urban development, how one utilizes or cross-fertilizes from one discipline in relation to another. And, of course, everyone is familiar with the Landscape Urbanism Reader and the kind of conversations that have continued from there. I think over the last few years, Charles has worked on a variety of themes and topics in collaboration with many members of the faculty. And I think over the next year or so, we probably will see quite a few publications that have been done as edited volumes that will come out from the cartography exhibition that we had, from the airport landscapes, and so on. And I think these also help to establish, help to define, in collaboration with others, really the importance of landscape as it begins to define a wider set of interests and themes. While all of this has been going on, there's been a sort of longer term project, which is the one focusing on O'Hare and the landscape of O'Hare Airport. And I think tonight probably Charles' talk, as I understand it or expect it, is that it's in some ways a kind of continuation or in one sense a sort of return to some of the earlier discussions about landscape urbanism. But also really the idea of the establishment of what he calls a general theory, of also trying to define a more theoretical position, which in many ways could also help articulate a different kind of posture, a different kind of position for the role of landscape in the context of the project of urban development, or how we think about urbanization, or how we think about urbanism more broadly. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing if we all agreed with his general theory. But undoubtedly, it will be a wonderful presentation. Afterwards, there will be a reception for, I think, a group of students and alumni that will be held in the portico rooms. But before then, we will have the pleasure of hearing Professor Charles Waldheim. Thank you. [applause] [music playing] It's appropriate, because we're still walking in, to have the walk-in music. Thank you, Chantel. Thank you Mohsen for the introduction for the talk and for all your support over the last six years. I could not have asked for better leadership, more support for me and my colleagues in the department over the last several years. And I'm particularly fortunate to have served in this role at a moment in time, while I hopefully played some modest role in it, I think will be viewed in historical terms as among the school's most fecund and fruitful. I think it's been an extraordinary number of years for the school. And I've been very pleased to serve it in this role. Thanks also to Anita, both for your support over the last six years, for the honor of this evening. I know that we're all looking to hearing from you in the weeks and months to come about the future of the department and new directions. And I look forward to supporting you in your efforts in that regard. Over the last several months, we've had a number of really quite nice moments to be able to reflect on where we've come from as a department and going forward. Mohsen and Pat hosted a lovely dinner. We had a small reception to honor the staff and the faculty for their hard work over the last six years. And I thought I would just take a moment before beginning the talk to situate my comments in the context of that transition. I've also been very happy to receive a number of notes and letters and cards from many of you and a number of gifts. And I've been very touched by them. And I don't have time in this space to share all of them. But I wanted to just mention a couple. So first of all, I'm now the proud owner of an original seven-inch vinyl Factory sample featuring Joy Division and Durruti Column courtesy of Mr. Bobby Pietrusko. So thank you, Bobby. That is the walk up and walk off music. So thank you for that. [applause] I was so inspired to as to go out and get my best Joy Division haircut for this evening. So thanks for that. [laughter] Siena noted-- my wife Siena is here. Siena noted earlier today that I hadn't really consulted with her before making this particular decision. But I stand by it. I hope you will as well. Now, I want you all just to take a moment as you come in from the heat and the humidity and just dilate on this particular image here. I want to spend a couple of moments on this. This is a piece of work that I'm particularly proud of. This is one of the nicer things that's ever been gifted to me. This is a lovely painting by Janessa in LA, in the UPD office. This is a caricature that she made and gifted to me on the occasion of me stepping down. And there are a couple of things I want to share with you about particular piece. The first is that it shows me much younger than I am today. This is the before image. And this is the after image. And so I'm very fond of the image for that reason. Secondly, I don't know if you share my opinion about this, but I find that the head proportion in this image much more reasonable and human than my own particular head. So I don't know if you've noticed, but it's not really a head made for television. Whereas, this looks kind of like how I think it should look. And then finally, in addition to her kind of accuracy in getting my wardrobe down, I think even though we hadn't worked together for very long, I think Janessa has depicted me somehow in my most characteristic pose as chair. Which I'm led to believe is a kind of mansplaining, like, look, this is what we're going to do now. I have been working on my hand posture. Scott Cohen couldn't be here this evening. But he and I have chatted recently about this. And he sends his regrets. But he is somebody that I've had a particular man crush on for his hand gestures. And I'm trying to develop it. You can see it here. And I think that Janessa probably saw this image first in me the office. And then you can see it here at the reception that we had for the staff in May, in a kind of classic, this is how we're going to do this kind of explain-- even my last day in office, this is somehow what I'm doing. This reading was recently confirmed by Caroline Newton, who runs our office and who's been really crucial, indispensable, over the last number of years. As we were discussing this gift that Janessa gave me, Caroline said, as she was looking for the right complement, said we're really going to miss-- and then she kind of paused for a minute. And you could tell, as she was always very poised and very articulate, looking for precisely the right adjective, the right words, to on the one hand acknowledge the transition and say something emotionally honest and also truthful hopefully, but also not really too overblown. And so she said, we're going to miss your quick decision making. [laughter] And this confirmed for me that in addition to the hand gestures, that I've developed a reputation among the staff that I'm not quite proud of, that I can almost always be relied upon for a very fast answer. That is I've often been wrong, but never really in doubt. And I think that's a position that has allowed the staff to proceed with their work quite well, irrespective of whatever position I've come forth with on a question that wasn't even really fully clear yet. In addition to those gifts, I want to share with you the gift from Dan Borelli. So Dan Borelli is, I believe, an institutional treasure, among other things, whose helped navigate us through a range of projects, exhibitions, over the last several years. He gifted to us the faux coyote that you see there, central with Sonia and I. This was, of course, the faux coyote that its presence known two years ago here in the lobby in the context of the airport landscape exhibition. I can tell you now that the coyote has pride of place in our living room at 302 Harvard. And, in fact, Cale and I are quite fond about it. In this context, it wasn't clear whether Dan was just cleaning out his office or whether this was meant to be a kind of poignant, very personal gift to me. But I can tell you that it's something that I cherish these days. The latter faculty, among other things, gifted me a lovely pair of field binoculars. And I think this was a very gentle, gentle way for landscape architects to encourage me to just get out of the building a little bit more often. They also gifted me with this document, which I hope you can see, which is so lovingly signed and dated and includes the names of the 303 graduates of the MLAs. So this the 303 people who've been conferred MLA degrees over the course of these last six years. And I just want to begin by acknowledging and dedicating the talk to that group, to the alumni cohort more broadly. I can tell you, I've been so warmly received by the graduates of this program. I feel so honored to be welcomed into this community. And we've worked quite closely. And I've become close friends with many, many of our alums. And I look forward to collaborations in the context of our Institute for Organization. When you add this list to the 175 MLA candidates currently enrolled, that group of 478 people we could say a couple of things about. Size is not everything. But I would say that proportion is not nothing. And in that context, that 478 landscape architects, about half also architects by the way, represents the sum total of MLAs produced by this institution between 1901 and 1968 or, to put it another way, over 25% of the full number of degrees, the MLA degrees, conferred between the founding of the program and the recent new era. So again, I don't want to say anything more than that. Obviously, history will have its say. But I do want to situate the context of acknowledging the talk really for the alums and also for the students. For those of you who have come here in the course of the last three years, or even as recently as last week, you know we've had the opportunity to share together our passion for this field. I think you honor us by your presence, choosing this field and choosing this institution at this moment in time. I am very pleased, while I do hope that you'll agree that we've left the department leavened, renewed, while there's more work to be done, I encourage you give Anita your full support in that regard going forward. It is nice to have an opportunity to reflect on one's own work over the course of the last six years. What I've been focusing on in my own research are a range of topics that I'm hopeful will try to thicken and deepen a little bit the material behind some of the more recent debates. The topic of landscape urbanism was at a moment in time, a few years ago, in my perception, beginning to gain a little bit of traction. Maybe about a decade ago, it was clear that it was found relevant for audiences in various places. But I also felt that it was very fragile. On the one hand, most of the discourse was characterized through journal articles, and conference proceedings, and lectures, and the like. And important things and useful things, but nothing really with the durability of something book length. And second of all, maybe more importantly. I think that it ran the risks of just becoming a kind of flavor of the month, as we need a new shtick, a new theory, every 18 months. And so I dedicated myself beginning then to do a little bit of background work to try to fill in some of the blanks for a broader-- I'm using this term. I hope you'll find it fair-- intellectual history. So the book in out the end of this year with Princeton University Press. I have to acknowledge Melissa Vaughn's role in helping me to edit the book. And the talk that I have in mind for you this evening is a brief introduction, a couple of very short, very brief tasting courses from portions of the book, and then a brief conclusion in which the man whose name is on this lecture will be included. My goal here is rather than imagining landscape as it's been received as an exception to-- or an amendment to the urban, to reposition landscape is always fundamentally urban in its very nature. I work on various sites and subjects from the 17th century through last week, more or less. And my interest is to situate these cases, irrespective of their chronology, in two places. On the one hand, I'm interested in questions of disciplinary formation. How is it that discourse changes and manifests itself in new disciplinary formations? When do new disciplines become new professions? When do we reach the limits of a particular professional nomenclature or practice and need a so-called new art? And then the second one are these broader macroeconomic transformations that we might think of externalities, that impinge themselves upon our work from the outside and the economy between those two things. That is, at what moments can disciplinary discourse, the work we do in the academy here, the work we do professionally, how can that impact societal and environmental change on the one hand? And conversely, when are the moments when societal and environmental change, not to mention other forms of transformation, the broader economy, when do they impact our work and change our discourse? The book postulates a moment of stability in areas of relative stability between the economic structure and the stability of spatial formation and the corresponding stability in our disciplinary formations. And at the same time, invokes a sense of disruption, mutation, when broader macroeconomic trends change. And obviously in this regard, I'm interested in the work of David Harvey, both his early work linking cultural transformations with an architectural culture to economic shifts and transformations. But also his conceptions of spatial fix and the idea that any particular mature economic order will tend to produce a set of particular predictable spatial outcomes. And that most often, in Harvey's formulation, it's the transformations, the shocks in between those stable economic areas that produce disruptions in the spatial and social fabric. My thesis, among other things, is that landscape has been called upon at least three times in the last two centuries to address those shocks. And maybe even more so than the other disciplines in this building, landscape has been called upon in those moments in part because of its flexibility, malleability, and the fact that other orders for the city might be more brittle, less responsive. And we can talk about that in some level of detail. The book is organized in nine chapters in thematic thirds, in a rough reverse chronology, beginning more or less last week and then working backwards through to the 19th century invention of the field. Chapters one through three rehearse the origins of the discourse and practices around landscape urbanism beginning just before the turn of the century. And they situate the emergence of that discourse in postmodern architectural culture and critiques of the failures of modernist planning. Chapters four through six look more at the economic structures underpinning that process of urbanization and the relationship or economy between those transformations and the formation of the discourse around landscape as a form of urbanism. And then chapter seven through nine look back at various forms of subjectivity or representation, including the original formation of landscape as a genre representation. On the one hand, I'm interested to chronicle moments like Mies' interview in 1955 when he, the emigre, laments the lack of the city. We really have no cities anymore. It just goes on like a forest. And this has to do, of course, with the kind of form of urbanization that Mies and Hilberseimer would have encountered in Chicago and across North America more broadly. And I'm interested in, of course, practices of representation in which a kind of mature Fordist, decentralized urbanization pattern could be depicted. This is the work of Alfred Caldwell from the CCA archives as delineate or drawing Hilberseimer's new regional pattern. And the tension between those representations on the one hand and this friction, the kind of tension of disciplinary roiling, the churning that happens around discourse and disciplinary formation. In this case, I quite like this Roland Barth quote, which in translation essentially argues that it's through the shocks of fashion, through the shock of new language or new object formation that this disruption happens. And in this regard, I'm not here to claim that we are on the cusp of any new shock or new formation. I'm trying to situate what has happened in historical terms. The discourse and practises that I'm referring to in the first third of the book emerged at the end of the 20th century in a peculiar mix between design culture, environmental populism, a neoliberal economic formation of urbanization in relationship to progressive ideas of arts and donor culture. This is at a moment following several decades of urban planning, having moved toward the social sciences and abdicating spatial design and in which urban design had recommitted to neotraditional models of town planning. In this regard, my argument is that post-1968, each of the disciplines in this building were, you might say, radicalized in a way around their own autonomy. And we each sought out very different goals, with planning really wanting to become a social science or a political science; with architecture really being focused on its own autonomy, its own cultural formation; and landscape architecture radicalized around environment and ecology. And that radicalization was quite productive post-'68 or post-'73. But it tended toward a kind of centrifugal force in which it was difficult for us in this building to speak to one another. It was difficult to know what language we could share or what context of culture we could agree upon. In that regard, recently what we've seen is really a rapprochement between landscape architecture as a design discipline and architectural culture. And much of what I'm concerned about in the book has to do ultimately with the relationship, the kind of friction between that radicalization post-1968 and a void that was produced in the urban project space, the place in which urban propositions are possible. Now at certain moments, of course, you'll hear an echo of the kind of activist agenda that we've had in the department over the course of last six years to try to align the profession, align the discipline, with that future. And at the same moment, my role in the book project is to try to simply describe. In this regard, I stepped back from the more ideological or activist work over the last several years, also some of the more charged debates of recent years, to try to look for something that's slightly more durable. And to try to identify other moments historically in which landscape could be understood as a medium of urbanization apart from the more recent topic. In this regard, in the dense industrial city of the 19th century, landscape architecture was really invented as a new art, as an exception to the traditional order of the city stepping into the space of the social and the environmental challenges. In the middle of the 20th century, in the context of mature Fordism, to use the technical terms, the decentralization was associated with a mature form of spatialization in which landscape ecology emerged to try to structure and add some environmental and social coherence. And then most recently in the post-Fordist or consumption economy, landscape urbanism has emerged as a medium through which industrial sites left in the wake of that restructuring might be thought about again. In each of these moments, landscape has been called upon, as I've said, because of its responsibility and flexibility in relationship to the putatively more durable but maybe ultimately more brittle models founded on a more architectonic model for urban form. At the same moment, this conversation emerges out of a very particular time in the history of architectural culture. In the first course, I'm interested here in indeterminacy. The particular forms of indeterminacy and autonomy that emerged beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, in which, I'm showing you here, of course, OMA's New Town, Melun Senart competition entry of '87. I might as easily have shown you Koolhaas and Ungers' Green Archipelago, the idea of a line of thought in which architect urbanists interested in the project of the city, interested in social relations, but not interested to be kind of backed into the style culture wars of the 1980s, identify urban and social density, the mixing of bodies and program or event, as a surrogate for urbanity. And in response to that, and following architectural interest in the open work, a generation of architects and urbanists essentially begin experimenting with forms of indeterminacy. They were, of course, looking and stimulated, many of them, by the work of the surrealists. In this case, I'm showing you Duchamp's Standard Stoppages. That work informed a group of architect urbanists and landscape architects working in the mid-1990s, among them people that would go on to be the central protagonists in landscape urbanism. This is Stan Allen's Field Conditions diagram from 1999, in which he's interested in drawing models from nature, in fact lifting language and diagrams from Richard Forman, to develop and occupy a field condition that's essentially infrastructural. There's an alternative tradition here, that I wanted to just mention in passing, in which architectural projects had been mobilized by various forms of indeterminacy or distanced or delayed authorship. And in another context, we might also cite the work of Peter Eisenman and his post-functionalism argument from 1974. But for this purpose and this context, one way of telling this piece of the story would be to refer to the work of Miralles and Pinos, and kind of frottage, whether it was Igualada or the archery range in Barcelona, the idea of following a surrealist technique of the rubbing of topographic lines and then the misplacing of them as a form of distanced authorship, in this case analog. Which I think is obviously not unrelated to practices of FOA and a range of other actors at a moment in time, working in the 1990s, in this case digitally,-- I'm showing you here Yokohama Terminal Pier and the Barcelona Amphitheater-- in which the indeterminacy emerges through a highly configured set of performative requirements. And so we've added to the mix, the digital. We've added to the mix, the performance outcome. And at the same moment, there is a formal outcome that is somehow distanced from the authorship, or the taste culture you might say, of the architect. There was a strain of that thinking in landscape architecture as early as the mid-'90s. And it's been underreported. And so I make a medium-sized deal out of it in one chapter, in which I talk about projects like James Corner Field Operations' project for Bridesburg in Philadelphia, in which phytoremediation strategies give not just a technical approach or a public realm approach, but they really give the overall shape of the urban figure. Maybe more well known is the Adriaan Geuze West 8 project for Buckthorn City, in which case this new polder on the Dutch coast, the urban configuration is not given by historical precedent. It's not given by planning, zoning regulations, real estate development. The urban figure is given by the consolidation through the roots of the Buckthorn plant. So ultimately, urban form, the configuration of the public realm, could be informed through a kind of indeterminacy. And I think whether it was Stan Allen, or James Corner, or Adriaan Geuze, these were people who were literate in ecology and began to find in ecology a kind of surrogate deferred authorship, a kind of open system that they could draw on. And that emerged in the mid-'90s as a very powerful nucleus because it allowed the putative landscape urbanists to simultaneously have the critical position that architecture so desired, that is criticality by distancing use and distancing authorship, combined with an environmental position, an environmental or ecologically leavened position. So tasting course two-- I want to juxtapose that array, that account, which is essentially a kind of disciplinary discourse, inside baseball, between architecture and landscape architecture in the 1980s and '90s, with what Frampton refers to here as the dystopian of the megalopolis, the macroeconomic structures of urbanization. Often, I think too often, in these contexts, we will tend to approach conversations of the city from one discourse or the other. That is most often,-- and I may be overreaching, but just stay with me for a minute-- I think it's most often the case that in our work together in this building, we're most often describing things from either a disciplinary point of view, a discursive point of view, even an inner trans-multidisciplinary point of view. Or we're approaching it from an empirical point of view, from the point of view of an economics or social science or describing the city as if it were a process. Both of those are fundamentally important here. But I want to bring them up against each other in a little bit of greater friction, let's say. In this diagram, Alex Wall and Susan Snyder, which they made at the end of 1990s, 1998, '99, they superimposed the logistical framework of Newark Airport and the Port of Elizabeth and Newark on Manhattan. And they engage in a process by which they argue for a new kind of logistics landscape in which a macroeconomic logic, a spatial logic, can be applied to account for Manhattan, front-stage, back of stage. And this follows almost exactly an argument made Alejandro Zaera Polo a couple of years earlier in an issue of AD, in which both Wall, Snyder, but also Zaera Polo refer specifically to David Harvey as making this spatial fix account. In this regard, of course, our field, our building, has been awash in images like this. This is an amazing aerial photograph. This is Alan Berger photo of the Port of Los Angeles, Long Beach, that shows a little bit the back of how space of our current processes of urbanization. At the same moment, of course, this restructuring, which is growing these ports larger and larger, has produced a couple of conditions that have been relevant for this topic. On the one hand, there's been a furious activity in using redundant or old ports to make them available for new urban populations. And so I'm showing you just by way of example, this in Qianhai in Shenzhen, a competition project by James Corner Field Operations, in which a new CBD of a million people is just plopped on a port that was itself already only nine years old. And so the pace and scale of redundancy here is interesting. And, of course, this rehearses a very long story in our fields about port sites and their transition. I'm showing here at the Frits Palmboom landscape project for IJburg in Amsterdam. But equally, we could look at Adriaan Geuze West 8's project for Borneo and Sporenburg. And that continuity continues, the continuity of finding sites redundant and then reoccupying them for new economic forms. In this regard, there was a key hinge moment there as the landscape architect, many of them, began to use the port site, initially the industrial port site and more recently now the airport site, as a place in which other urban actors didn't have the same traction and into which the landscape architect began to assert his or her traction on urban form. You might also think of, in this regard, the Shouwburgplein little Theater Square as a kind of front-of-house space. It's equivalent to the Port of Rotterdam, in which the towers refer to the large cranes out on the port side. And in which, of course, there's an ongoing relationship between a conversation about indeterminacy on the one hand-- this is Stan Allen's diagram for the Barcelona Logistical Activity Zone, in which Allen, Corner, Geuze, and others are interested in the fact that that horizontal surface can be made available for all sorts, innumerable numbers, of unknown future activities. And so what I say in this section of the book is that Allen is improbably channeling Richard Forman and Bernard Tschumi to the same dinner party, right, that at the same moment the horizontal surface is being used as a surface to stage indeterminacy and temporal movement and into which the operating system, the spatial model, the model of succession if you will, is really lifted from field ecology, landscape ecology. Equally in this regard, we could include James Corner's project for Green Point on Long Island. Tasting course number three. Landscape in the West was itself a symptom of modern loss, a cultural form that emerged only after our primal relationship to nature had been disrupted by urbanism. This is Christopher Wood in his dissertation-cum-book on Albrecht Altdorfer a couple of decades ago. It's as good a sentence as I've seen to describe that situation, in which we have to understand landscape to have emerged from the conditions of urbanity itself. This is a photograph that I quite like, that I'm using as a frontispiece for this chapter. It's by Gregory Crewdson. And it's a photograph of the Italian film set Cinecitta on the outside of Rome, which is also being abandoned. And so there's a kind of double layering of abandonment in this image. As we've argued, landscape is a medium structurally related to these transformations in the spatial order of particular economic eras. I argue in the book that landscape itself emerges from the formerly urban, to use Julia Czerniak's formulation for that. That is, not simply does landscape come from urbanity. Landscape was itself originated in the Western tradition-- I'll make that claim stand up in a minute-- by describing urban abandonment specifically. That is, without urban abandonment, we don't get to landscape in the Western cannon. Now, of course, in my own work and I think for many, Detroit is the Ur condition for North American abandonment. And I'm showing you here Richard Plunz's canonical figure/ground diagrams or Alex McLean's aerial photographs. And at the same moment, of course we have to juxtapose that with a conversation of Rome. Both Detroit and Rome lost at least a million people in population. So there's a kind of fair symmetry there. Detroit lost half its population in just over a century, over half a century. Whereas Rome lost 95% of its population for a millennium. It's a different order of magnitude proportionally. And depending upon which numbers you look at and who you follow, of course one can construct a slightly different history to that. But I want to back up and begin with the origin myth of landscape itself because we're going to close in a couple of minutes on the origin myth of landscape architecture. I believe, and a part of what the book is trying to do, is to reposition the history of our field, the history of the medium of landscape, in such a way as to make the recent past seem more likely or inevitable. Or another way of putting it is to restructure that history so as to make it serviceable to where we are today. In this regard, it's been well established in the literature that landscape emerged at the same moment in two or three places in Western Europe, in the most densely settled and economically developed regions of Western Europe. This is Flanders, the Po River Valley. This is quite settled case law by now. By the beginning of the 16th century, landscape had been established in the English language as a genre of painting that had been appropriated from the Continent. By the 17th century, that had migrated from a genre of painting and decorative arts into what we would say is a mode of subjectivity, a way of seeing the world. That is, you could go out into the world and you can make a tour. And you could see the world as a landscape by this point. By the 18th century, one could see the slippage in English to describe the land itself that way, no longer needing the human subjectivity to interpret it. And, of course, by the 19th century it was its own profession. More about that in a couple of minutes. In this regard, in that long cultural history, my claim, the thing I'm adding to that story in this particular chapter, has to do with the role of landscape painting and its reception in the British Isles and its impact on landscape thinking in English. In this regard, we have to do a little detour outside of the chronology. In this case, this is Bufalini's Plan of Rome, 1551, as reprinted by Nolli. And it illustrates the extent to which Rome had been abandoned, a vast territory within the Aurelian wall circuit. You can see the wall circuit here. As it was described by one author in the Middle Ages, Rome sat like a shrunken nut within its shell. And so what I'm interested in here is the territory within the Aurelian wall circuit, the vast-- 75%, 70% percent of the land area within this period of time, which comes to be known as the disabitato. And a "disabitato" had been an Italian, a vernacular Italian word referring to a general condition of abandonment, urban abandonment. But then becomes appropriate as a specific place name for Rome, abandoned inside the walls. By the time of Bufalini's map, it had already, by 1551, become a very specific topos here. And at the same moment, it was best characterized by the juxtaposition or comingling or maybe even competition between the processes of natural selection on the one hand, succession, ongoing spontaneous activity, and cultivation, really the two, and other activities. Not too long after that, by the middle of 18th century, 1748, by the time of Nolli, we could say that the vast majority of the disabitato was covered with a kind of agricultural activity, orchards, vineyards, kitchen gardens. And you can begin to see some of that here. And so what's happening is really a kind of a papal project of reconstituting the capital, which we could say more about as an architectural and urban project. But in which my argument would be that the cultivation of this land, its consolidation as a kind of interior suburban hinterland, kind of papal weekend retreats and the like, the kind of villa culture, was a fundamental equivalent to the process of the reconsolidation of Rome as capital. Now, of course, much of the disabitato persisted well into the 19th century as a site of spontaneous succession. As late as 1855, the English botanist Richard Deacon documented no fewer than 420 species of plants growing spontaneously in and around the Colosseum, just as an example, to give you a sense of that. Now, what's interesting for our story, of course, is that for many English tourists in the 18th and 19th century who made the tour, it was not so much the number of plants in the Colosseum, but rather the depiction of these places in representation, visual and otherwise. And so for those purposes, I'll say a word about 1603 and Claude Lorrain. By 1603, as the term "landscape" first enters the English language, Claude is born in the Duchy of Lorraine in France. And it's, again, quite well established case law in the art history literature that Claude disproportionately has an impact in the shaping of, in the British Isles, English perceptions of landscape. Disproportionately the acquisition of images by Claude and then their consolidation into a world view. I'm showing you here one particular image. This is 1635. It's a self-portrait of him sketching, with a second figure looking on. And it's the best image I've found in the body of work, much of which is at the [inaudible] end of the British Museum, in which you see Claude doing what he did, which is making trips en plein air into the disabitato. In this regard, in art historical terms, I'm led to believe that he was a bit of an innovator, doing work, with guards, in the disabitato, which was a bit of a lawless place, in the company of other artists and excursions, and making sketches like this. So this is a cartoon, a sketch that was made in advance, from the Campo Vaccino, in advance of a larger work in oil. And it's interesting, maybe as a footnote, to note that it was the British connoisseurs who were collecting, not the oil paintings, that were going to the papal curia and the princes of Europe, but rather it's the drawings, the Liber Veritatis, the "Book of Truth," in which Claude used essentially like a copyright device to ensure the authenticity of his particular paintings. It's really these drawings and in particular studies from nature-- this study of an oak tree by Claude is indicative of this kind of attention to detail. And so Claude going on these day trips with armed guards and compatriots, into the disabitato, into harm's way, making these drawings from nature, in this case extraordinary work, influences a generation or more of tastes. Of course, this includes the influence on William Gilpin's picturesque principles, Thomas Grace' advocacy for picturesque travel, and broadly the English picturesque landscape garden movement. And obviously, John Hunt has had more to say about that part of it. For my purposes, the claim that I'm making, that's important for my argument, is that there is no landscape apart from urban abandonment, a priori. We don't get to landscape as a category in the West until we've had a city and then abandoned it. And so shrinkage is in our DNA. It's not a new thing. It's not a new idea. It's not a new praxis. In this regard, of course, the Claude glass, much has been made of the so-called Glaude class, in which-- the Gainsborough image is reproduced in at least 16 anthologies I've seen in the last couple of years, describing the convex mirror, in which you're meant as a tourist to turn your back to the view and look and see an image that's closely akin to the Claude painting. What I'm bringing to the party is that this is Claude's self-portrait here showing himself a century earlier in a Claude glass. So we have direct evidence here that Claude is using this device and really already conscious of both the framing and the reception of landscape ultimately as a framework. So tasting course number four, more on shrinkage. The structure of the city is wrong. Only a structural change of the city could bring about the necessary order. Now, in the long history of planning, of course, there are many, many people who have dealt with shrinkage. In this case, for me it's interesting to think about planning practices that don't see shrinkage as an inevitable failure of planning. But also practices that don't imagine they can use planning to reverse broader economic orders. And in this regard, in the last several years I've been engaged on a kind of solo mission to recuperate the German planner Ludwig Hilberseimer, in part because of his interesting cultural relationship to economic formation. That helps me in this particular chapter make the argument that while Hilberseimer was a committed socialist, and his politics didn't really change of the course of his career, he cites Henry Ford, he cites Henry Ford as the figure who can understand and articulate the spatial pattern of mature Fordism. In this regard, Hilberseimer's work begins to illustrate a kind of mature decentralized spatial pattern, not to imagine that design or planning could resist those forces. But rather to illustrate a mechanism to insulate populations from their most deleterious effects. And that particular footing of having a social and environmental commitment on the one hand, and then engaging within the kind of broader macroeconomic order appeals to me. And as I've said in other contexts, I think is relevant to our current interests in ecological urbanism. In 1949, Hilberseimer published The New Regional Pattern. And it's a publication that consolidated both his academic kind of planning theories, but also his broader methodological approach. And with drawings like this, this one being the work of Alfred Caldwell, delineater, he illustrates a new pattern of urbanization which doesn't defer to the Jacksonian grid so much as it defers to ambient conditions, natural environment, topography, hydrology, vegetation, wind patterns, and the like. Very near the end of his life, Mies, in an interview, lamented the fact that Hilbs' work never really got any respect. Mies said he would have hoped that the importance of Hilbs' work would come out because the kinds of things that they were then interested in-- Mies was interviewed in the 1960s, saying the things we're interested in today, energy, conservation, solar orientation, things we would now describing under the rubric of ecological urbanism, these with a central components of Hilberseimer's planning theory in relationship to a kind of mature Fordist economy. Ultimately, he was an ambitious guy. He may have overreached occasionally. But in the context of a decentralized pattern, an interstate highway system, civil defense highway system, Hilberseimer was able to imagine and articulate in both words and in drawings a pattern that while aspects of it may be terrifying to us, he, following the Augustinian notion of order, understood to be a representation of our culture. And in this, of course, he was following the Miesian sense of not really wanting to reform, but simply to represent and to embody. But, of course, ultimately the most enduring critique of Hilbs' work would come from one Charles Jencks, who, in 1966, as a graduate student in London, launched an essay called "The Problem With Mies." And then ultimately, later in the 1970s, would cite the demolition of Pruitt-Igoe as the so-called death of modern architecture. Jencks attacked Hilbs as a surrogate for Mies and did so very effectively across a decade of criticism. And as a result, I think, Hilbs' story really fell out of favor. It's really been made radioactive for a whole generation of us. But in this context and in a broader intellectual history of landscape as a form of urbanism, what's interesting to me, and what I would leave you and what I've said in the book, is that I think Hiberseimer rightly situates himself in a broader tradition of alternative or progressive planning practices. And in this regard, I situate him in this chapter alongside the work of Andrea Branzi. I've said more about Branzi in other contexts. But in this context, what I would say is Branzi and Archizoom's No-Stop City begins in the late '60s, on the one hand as a kind of inside reference to practices of Archigram and others in the UK. But it also illustrates an urbanism without qualities, a kind of degree zero urbanism, which occupies a form of social critique. And I think in this regard, Branzi is, of course, coming out of the operist tradition in which it's possible to make projects revealing our situation, as it were, as a form of social and political critique. And in that regard, I would situate Hilberseimer and Branzi. This is Branzi's later work with Domus Academy for Agronica or with the Philips Corporation for Eindhoven. And, of course, in that genealogy one could build a longer argument about what does it mean to bring a question of autonomy or criticality to bear on the representation of a kind of mature urban form? In this case, I'm showing you the work of Pier Vittorio Aureli, Dogma, Martino Tatara, and their Stop-City project, which I think sits very comfortably within that broader argument. In which simply identifying and articulating the macroeconomic conditions for our urban world and then representing them, in this case through ecology, among other lenses, is a very powerful form, potentially, of social and political critique. And it's maybe interesting to note here, in closing this particular story line, that as Bernardo Secchi and Paola Vigano have also articulated-- of course, Aureli studied with them-- [inaudible], the context in which one can have a culture of social/political critique, illustrating the economic conditions that we have, the kind of dirty realism, such as it is, but leavened through a particular cultural lens and a particular environmental lens. And in turning now to conclude, what I want to say there is it has been, I think, for most of my professional career, a kind of false choice that we've been given. On the one hand, my generation of urbanist has been given over to identify as a cultural producer. And in so doing, to identify design culture, as I would say it, or architectural culture. And in that regard, the overwhelming incentives, the overwhelming cultural capital, is really in service of autonomy, autonomy of the field, a criticality of the field, and it's distancing from the dangers of instrumentality and being put to use. And that, of course, post-1968, in this world view that I've painted for you this evening, if post-1968, we were all radicalized in different directions, and if one of us took autonomy, and criticality, and cultural capital and left the party, it meant necessarily that the rest of us, right, in urbanism, in planning, in urban design, in landscape architecture, all those terms, we were seen to be instrumental. And being instrumental was seen to be problematic. The slippery slope argument I think many of you are familiar with. It certainly characterizes certain moments when Scott Cohen and I would we get into it in the recent past. In that context, I want to suggest that I think there is an alternative history that we construct, and I think this book does a modest attempt to try to build the beginning of that history, in which we can begin to, if not reconcile, at least juxtapose the culture of criticality and autonomy from design culture on the one hand, with these externalities, be they environment or economy. In conclusion, the landscape architect is still surely wrongly named. And Gareth, I don't know, what's the statute of limitations by which I no longer have to acknowledge you for finding this essay of Jellicoe's? I mean it's in print. I mean maybe another few years and I could just take it as my own. But I do acknowledge Gareth's identification of this essay by Jellicoe. It's a kind of late Jellicoe essay. This is after he's already stepped down as founding president of the International Federation of Landscape Architects. The very founding president says something heretical, like maybe we got the name wrong. And so I don't mean just to kind of end on a note of kind of despair about that. But if you've noticed anything about my habits of mind, I think what we call things matter. And I think in this line of work in particular, the language we use and the formations that we enter into a quite crucial. And so in that regard, what I'll leave you with is the piece that concludes the manuscript of the book. And in which I argue that the landscape architect is not only the urbanist of our age, but in fact the landscape architect was invented to be the urbanist of their age. The emergence of landscape architecture in the middle of the 19th century has been described in English, and certainly in most accounts and the accounts that we have access to, as in great continuity with an English language tradition of landscape gardening. And I don't want to suppose that there hasn't been a tradition of landscape gardening or there aren't forms of continuity. My position here, and I try to say this is the chapter, is that that continuity argument has been so vastly overstated and all of the other countervailing evidence has really been neglected. And my role is to kind of bring the extra evidence to the table and have a more kind of nuanced or substantive conversation about that. We know, of course, that landscape gardening was the preferred English language term for the practice. This is, in fact, Repton's business card, I'm lead to belief by credible sources. And yet, of course, there were antecedent practices, things that look a lot like landscape architecture going on for a couple of centuries on both sides of the Atlantic, very profitably and happily for a whole variety of reasons. What I'm interested in here is why the founders of the new art, why Olmsted and Olmsted and Olmsted and the Olmsted Circle, why the boosters, why they didn't appropriate that landscape gardening tradition? They clearly had the choice. And all the evidence that I've found suggest that they made a conscious choice. For a very clear set of reasons I believe, that I'll try to lay out for you in conclusion. By the end of 19th century, the available professional identities available to those working on the urban arts, such as architect, engineer, gardener, artist, were perceived by many to be inadequate. And I think there's more to be said in another context on the ends or the limits of architecture. That is, when does architectural thinking, discourse, disciplinary habit, professional practice, when does it reach a kind of limit case? But it was clear that for those boosters that founded the new field here on the Eastern seaboard of the US, those titles had run aground of the kind of conditions of the industrial city, the social and the environmental conditions of the industrial city. And that, not only a new set of activities, a new set of practices, but equally a new professional identity. Now, many of us, I had been led to believe myself, that this origin centered really around the work of the major parks on the Eastern seaboard. And, of course, the parks have an important role to play here. In this regard, what I've found might be of interest to this story. On the one hand, we could say that the French architect and engineer Jean-Marie Morel coined the French formulation, architecte-paysagiste. I It was an elited hyphen, that got kind of misplaced in his obituary ultimately. But what's important for these purposes, while there's more work that's been done on this topic by Joseph Disponzio, what's important for these purposes, it was a francophone formulation that got consolidated in the middle of the 19th century with the appointment of Vare as jardiniere paysagiste, as landscape gardener, to the work of the Bois de Boulogne. These improvements led him to set up an Office Vare, in the Bois de Boulogne, to do this work, 1852, 1853. And by 1854, he had a stamp made up that said "Service of the landscape architect," "Service de l'architecte-paysagiste." Now by that time, of course, he was very quickly sacked and then replaced by Alphand and a new machinery. But what's important for our purposes was that Olmsted, Sr., of course, would have seen at the Bois de Boulogne in 1959, the use of that stamp in correlation to the expanded scope of work for the landscape architect. It was there that he would have seen the aspirations of Alphand toward the landscape architect as really controlling the management of an urban district, including urban infrastructure, including its public space, including its built form and urban form. But ultimately, also including its management and political processes, not even its policing. It's maybe interesting to note here, I'm showing you images of Central Park. But, of course, Olmsted was initially appointed to be the commissioner or superintendent of Central Park by the commissioners. He, of course, had fallen on hard times. He was out of options. He had really financially run out of other options. He took basically a civil service job at the recommendation of a family friend, who happened to be a commissioner. And then very quickly, within a year, 18 months, Olmsted consolidated his political position as a superintendent. He lobbied internally for a design competition, which he nimbly then paired with one of the more talent architects on the Eastern seaboard, Calvert Vaux. And, of course, Olmsted and Vaux won on a very strictly party line vote, 5 to 4, all the Republican commissioners voting in favor. Now, I don't want to do anything on this august occasion-named lecture to diminish that myth. But what I want to do is I want to drill down and I want to get to some detail on it. Because I think it matters to situate this in the context of Republican reform politics in New York state. That the commission was structured as a state body, not a city body, to be five to four Republicans against non-Republicans, in the context of urban reform from the state. What's interesting here to me is that in none of that time, through 1859, through the beginning of construction, so appointed as superintendent, winning the design competition, beginning construction for several years, in none of that time did Olmsted ever use the term landscape architect. He referred to himself as an architect. And, in fact, after winning the competition, had himself promoted to architect-in-chief. I think much to chagrin of Calvert Vaux, who was actually an architect. But more about that at another time. It was, of course, at the Bois de Boulogne where he met Alphand in the course of a fortnight. The commissioners were a little frustrated with Olmsted, that he was really not under control in terms of budget. And he was a little bit exhausted in 1859. So they sent him on this famous tour, in the summer and fall of 1859, to tour European precedents. He visited the Bois de Boulogne eight times, in a fortnight, in November, December, where he saw the full metier of I think what he had in mind and what landscape architecture could be. Of course, the French weren't yet calling it that because Vare had been sacked and they retreated to some other language and never really consolidated the title "landscape architect" until the 20th century as the professional title. It was only upon Olmsted's return to the Eastern seaboard, to New York, where all the evidence cleared that he brought back this appetite for the architecte-paysagiste as an identity. And it was in correspondence with his father, in July 1860, ultimately, a letter confirming the commissioning of Olmsted and Vaux as, quote, "landscape architects by the Commissioners for the laying out of Northern Manhattan." Subsequent to this commission, in 1862, and then in 1863, Olmsted went back and retroactively had their appointment renamed to "landscape architects in 1862 for Central Park" And then, of course, proceeded to do plans for Prospect Park and of course the canonical works that are quite well known, in which they consolidated the identity of landscape architect. What I want to leave you with this evening, in addition to just the heartfelt gratitude and thanks for all your support this evening and over the last six years, is that the first appointment for a landscape architect was not for the design of a park, not for the design of a pleasure ground or a public garden, but for the planning of Northern Manhattan. The landscape architect was originally conceived as a professional responsible for designing the shape of the city, rather than exceptions to it. Thanks. [applause] Where are you going? It's your podium. Come back here. I think Charles has left us with a lot of different trains of thoughts. And I think it would be remiss not to open up the conversation. I'm sure there'll be lots of questions. In the spirit of friendship, just one or two questions, one or two comments. I'm curious-- why aren't you up here? Why are you sitting down there next to-- No, no, no, it's not my podium. Come up here, no, so please. I'm sort of curious because we have like a lecture in two parts. There's like the first part, which is about the book. And then there is really the rise of the concept of the landscape architect. Where on one level, superficially, one can see that there's a lot that's happening, which is in one sense about a kind of denial of landscape on one level. I mean if I was a landscape architect sitting there, I would think that at some moment I would have a little bit of an anxiety about the way in which landscape, as a material, is not present in that first part. Because there's so many things that are being presented. And these things, as you said, are referring to traditions in architecture, to other things, and so on. But one doesn't really see landscape as such. By that I mean that the work that we do in the school, so much of it, following in the traditional of others, is not so much just about cities or whatever. But it's that we are using certain material, which some people would call non-human material, to make stuff. And it's with that with that non-human material that we're making landscapes, or we're making cities, or we're making buildings. But it's really how kind of the thinking goes that produces that kind of concept. So if we look at the Map of Rome that you showed from Nolli, or you go earlier, it's true that there was the idea of abandonment. So because there's the idea of the city, and the ancient city, and that was bigger, and then you have the shrinkage, and you have this leftover. But simultaneously with this idea of the fascination with ruins and the aesthetics of ruins, there is actually a project of making villas, people are using trees and landscape to construct the villas and the villas of urbana and so on and so forth. So in this story, I'm actually missing in some sense the presence of landscape. I see the aesthetic of ruination. But also in the 16th century, there's landscape. People are interested in how the villa as a landscape operates. And they're also interested in the forest as an entity that exists. So ironically, you could say that actually this tradition of the claiming of the city by landscape occurs much, much earlier in the 16th century, precisely because that's the moment when people are experimenting with that non-human material stuff of landscape, the experiments with which they can make the city. And so you could see that there is a great deal of stuff that's sort of going on which is really about landscape as opposed to the city being the influence of cities. So I'm just curious whether in the line of argument you sort of feel there's a deliberate forgetting of the stuff of landscape? What do you think? [laughter] I've never really done a kind of debate Q&A with one mic at the podium, but in the spirit of friendship. [laughter] I don't want you to misconstrue this as too essentialist, or fundamentalist, or strict constructionist. And there's clearly important work to be done on the subjects that you mention. Having said that, I mean I believe the idea that there was landscape apart from the city is an historical construction. I think we've invented that. We've made up that construct. We've told ourselves that story. And a part of what I'm interested in is not so much what people were doing in the villages in the disabitato-- and that's important and interesting. But from my account, I want to know what does it take to build a new discipline? Why do we need a new discipline at a moment in time? And so I'm focusing on the discourse. I'm focusing disciplinary formation and professional identity. And that's why I put more emphasis on the reception of landscape as a category by the people that would go on to make landscape gardening. Because I think there's a much more plausible, direct, causal argument between the reception of those ideas and the way in which landscape architecture has been built as a discipline and professional formation here in the last 100, 150 years. So it's not as though what's going on the ground in the 16th century in Rome is not interesting. As I said, a lot of work has been done and needs to be done. My focus is really to understand why did we need this new field to get at something of its identity? And I don't want to split hairs. But I do think there's a distinction made between the material of a particular profession or discipline and its own formation, in the same way that we can all have a conversation here in this building about architecture's relationship to medium. Underneath that, if I was going to be in the spirit of friendship more direct, I would say there was a time, I believe, or maybe a history of various moments when in this institution and others like it, our disciplines were defined by media. That is, you were an architect to the extent you worked with brick. And you were a landscape architect to the extent that you worked with plants, et cetera, et cetera. And, of course, they are still valid concerns. And we still work that way. At the same moment, my argument here, and what I've tried to show, is that if you define our disciplines and our profession by our media, and by definition they're mutually exclusive, it means that the project of working together is going to be a very different kind of project. So when I situate that in the history of this institution, there tend to be kind of two modalities. If you read the Anthony Alofsin book or the Melanie Simo book, there tend to be two modalities. There's one modality where we tend toward collaboration. This is a moment when, at various moments in history, the school thinks of itself as working on a shared set of commitments and projects. Most often in that context, the Department of Landscape Architecture, if you read the material and you talk to people and you interview them, they feel the flush of resources, and oxygen, and access, and traction. But the trade-off is concern about autonomy and self-definition. The flip side of that are other moments of kind of benign neglect, when the other fields, let's start with landscape architecture, don't enjoy that centrality in the collaborative project. And they have a kind of benign neglect. But at the moment, don't have the same kind of centrality. So I apologize. I don't want to not take on the question. But the point of the book is to focus on the discourse that gets us to the formation of a new discipline or a new field. I want to open it. But I will give you a little bit of a rebuttal. [laughter] In the sense that I think that in landscape, perhaps one could argue that there is a delayed naming that's going on. In the sense that there's a highly sophisticated set of practices that are in place in terms of the making of the garden, from its organization, to its planting, to its smells, to all of those things. But those things are not named necessarily as the discipline of landscape. Because those things exist within the discipline of architecture in a sense, in the fullness of that kind of sense. And one of the sort of laments perhaps that I have is that there hasn't been enough studying of those kinds of practices sometimes. So the concepts of sort of trying to develop a certain new attitude towards landscape from the sort of time of Stan or Jim Corner and things like that, they're again referring to architecture in a way. Un-huh. The reference is to architectural theory. They're not necessarily referring to landscape theory. And so my point is that actually there may be something extremely exciting, profound, meaningful that comes from a revision of a different understanding of landscape in a way. And that may also lead to other kinds of possibilities. So some of the things that people are interested in about the perceptual qualities or the sensory qualities and all this theory of sensations, which was such a big deal in the 18th century, there's a kind of revision of that or there's a revival of that we're discovering now. So the discipline may be older than the timing of the naming of the discipline. That's really all I'm saying. But we should open it and see what other people-- Is that all, just that? Any questions. Please, James. [inaudible] a mic? Yes. Yes. Thank you. Everything is on record. Great. OK. So I had a question particularly about the portions of your talk that dealt with the midcentury in America, the mid-20th century in America. You show Hilberseimer. You discussed the abandonment of Detroit. But what doesn't get reflected on is what else was happening in urbanism at that time, namely the kind of horizontal expansion of the city. And given that that kind of urbanism, and I'm not going to name it just because we don't want to have kind of judgmental labels attached to it, but to say that kind of horizontal urbanism, which was very landscape driven, very network driven, very infrastructurally driven, came to dominate urbanism and how urbanism was made ever since then essentially. And has become the dominant model for this continent. And it's been replicated around the world. So I was wondering where does that fit into your discourse? And why so a little discussion around it? It seems like we moved around it, but didn't get to it. True. The chapter or two that deals with that midcentury era and planning essentially argues that the one built example we have of Hilberseimer was precisely meant to be an alternative to that urbanization that will not be named. Like it was conscious to be precisely, on the one hand, accommodating shrinkage because it was planned for half the population that originally lived there. We do have to acknowledge that Hilbs wasn't in the room when the decision to redline and demolish was made. That was well before he-- and so for me, the moral calculus there is really do you take the call? I talk to my students about all the time. So Mayor Cobo has erased through urban renewal, a racist act, and put 6,000 people out on the street. And it sits empty for two years. Do you take the project? I think there's a very strong argument in favor of not having taken a phone call. Having said that, by taking the call, not just him, of course, but Herb Greenwald and Mies, they produce what I think is the most durable and successful, both socially and environmentally, model of socially supportive housing in the country. Precisely in the city, as an alternative to what was going on in the periphery. And so what I interesting about Hilbs is that it's such a complicated story. On the one hand, he's committed to social justice. And Phyllis Lambert, who spent as much time with him as anybody that I've interviewed, she studied with him, he was fundamentally concerned about fairness, equity to sunlight and land, and solar orientation, and the like. And in that context, I think he gave us an example of what he would do with the settlement unit. But I think that it's the narrative that's gotten kind of overlaid on top of it because we've internalized, following Charles Jencks and Tom Wolfe, that modernist planning failed us, as if it was an architectural problem rather than a social and political one. Any other questions, please? Thank you, Charles. I think many of us were really looking forward to this lecture in opposition to the book. I'm a little intrigued by the subtitle of your book. I mean "Landscape as Urbanism, landscape make sense. "A General Theory," especially after I saw the the table of contents, I'm even more intrigued. Because you have this reverse chronological, intellectual, disciplinary history, which seems more like a general history, let's say, of landscape as urbanism. But my understanding is you want to be instrumental with this history. So I wonder where should we be looking to find the theory in this history and what it actually explains? Yeah. Thanks for the question. I had braced myself. Princeton has been wonderful to work with. And it was at the meeting of their editorial board around the subtitle that I had braced myself because I knew the subtitle was going to be the thing that took the most heat. I mean everything else was pretty straightforward. But, in fact, they understood it and kind of ratified it. And what I've have told them, I'll tell you. Which is, I don't mean it-- I hope it doesn't come across in any way that's pompous or overstated. On the one hand, I'm not an historian. And so I want to be mindful of-- and I've used some historical materials. And I make arguments based on a variety of material. I try to be rigorous about it. At the same moment, I'm not an historian. That's not what I do. And so I would say rather than instrumental, because I'm nervous about the idea of theory being put to use. For me, theory is really about constructing a lens or a set of lenses through which to understand our situation today. And a part of this-- which we'll see how it's received-- my goal here is not so much to add to the history of landscape architecture, which I think there's more to be done. But we're doing fine, thank you very much. It's to write a serviceable history, that while true, can help explain the recent past. And in that regard, whether it's history or theory, I'll leave open. But by "general," what I mean to suggest is post-ideological. I've made a conscious effort. I've not responded to our friends in the Congress. I have not responded to any of that. I'm "taking the high road," quote, unquote. I thought that was probably the right thing to do for a variety of reasons we could talk about. But this is meant to be a bit of a response. Which is say, well, here's a set of frameworks through which the last 10, 15 years might make some sense to people. Anita. Can you wait for the-- Oh, OK. Thanks Charles for s very informative lecture. I'm wondering if it would be useful to distinguish between the origins of the terms in a post-colonial society versus a European one, that had another trajectory, especially in terms of the institutions? Hm. I am curious as to why you never question the origins of architecture, especially in this country? Because when do we begin to call buildings architecture in post-colonial America, or even colonial America? And why is that never an issue? And I understand your topic is landscape. But I find that there may be some interesting parallels, for instance the ASLA and the AIA in terms of how they were formed and why and whether that might give you also some additional clues. I have seen material from Olmsted and Eliot about how to charge for the services of a landscape architect. And this was a really important thing weighing in on this name, as it was for architecture by the way. They were wanting to become professionals so that they could have a pattern in the way they were seen and their services offered and also paid for. And to me, this is the connection to France as well, and Alphand, and how the city was in fact hiring landscape architects or, in a way, institutionalizing the works. So there are letters on Eliot, for instance, going to see Andre and how he ran his firm because he knew how to charge and make a profit, which was something to import back into the United States at the end of the 19th century. We all know Olmsted had lots of problems making ends meet with the profession. Anyway, so I'm wondering. And apparently, this was an issue as well with Richardson, and Peabody, and all of the other architects with whom they were collaborating. Just wondering whether you've looked into that sort of all-American pragmatism in terms of setting up the institutions and the modes of offering the services? Hm. It's a nice idea. Thanks. You're reminding me of Neil's piece on the ways in which you used to be able to have a book that went from how to start a conservation agency or a board of commissioners through how to bill. I mean basically specification writing was chapter nine. And that the sum total of how to build an urban park was in one volume in the library. I promised my editors at Chicago that I'm not doing anything else until I finish the O'Hare book. So I can't do this until then. But the thing I'm really excited about right now is I think there's a project, maybe something journal length, on when does architecture reach its limits? Because for precisely the reasons that you suggest, it's not just the internal exhaustion of discourse or of viability, but it's the sense of external social and political context in which, well, we need something else. And I don't mean in any way to pick on architecture. But it does seem the more I'm at this, the kind of obvious thing to do. It was like, well, what about this other thing? I'm also beginning from a point of view that a lot of people who do very serious work have done a lot of work on the origin story of architecture, honestly. And I think that a lot of my education was steeped in the building up of that material. The thing that I go back to is not so much colonial, post-colonial, which you might be able to help me with, but more we used to believe that ideas of environment were universal. And one of the great, at least for me, the kind of great, profound kind of transformations in our generation has been the consolidation that we'll know. In fact, ecology is plural, and it's political, and it's up for grabs. And I think there's a lot of work to be done on the formation stories of our fields and what they mean. And I don't mean to do that in a sense of, oh, I've got the right answer and I've got the final word. But I just feel like so much ink has been spilled on a particular. And a part of that goes back into the familiar territory of there are very few of us, and we're a very young profession, et cetera, et cetera. But I think anything that can help us shed light on the recent and distant past in our fields, in this building, can help us work together I think in a more enlightened way. Thanks. Thanks, Charles. The talk was really refreshing and also I think a great way to start off the year. I'm sort of feeling also leavened by the fact that I feel free. That I no longer have to pay my professional dues any more because we got the name wrong. [laughter] But there is something that's particularly interesting, just in terms of moving the discourse let's say from disciplines within the box itself here, to, let's say, the new urban architects in the form of urban scientists and urban sociologists, that seem to be, for lack of a better word, like controlling urban discourse in the realm of the Anthropocene, urban sustainability, study on megacities. There's a particular polemic that you're kind of cabling, which I think is particularly interesting. Which is, in the age of essentially studying the formation of cities, the sort of agglomerations, the kind of accumulation of capital, I mean you put forth this idea, a very polemical idea, which is it's not at the point at which we see abandonment that we understand the landscape. And so, therefore, there's almost like this implication that perhaps it would be useful to understand where areas of divestment, abandonment, evacuation are occurring. So I'm just wondering just in terms of, let's say, orienting the cannon towards other disciplines that are primarily really controlling a discourse, how would you position the study of abandonment or evacuation, et cetera, that you're-- I mean implying as part of the talk-- towards discussions about future studies of urbanization? Hm. Thanks. I mean we're just beginning to talk about this new institute here, and what that might be, and how we might describe it and might define it, and how it might be different than other things. And so I've been spending a good part of the summer reading and looking into other models and peer institutions. And this question, in a way, has come up a lot about "there are many, many actors, many, many disciplines, professions, institutions active in the urban space," quote, unquote. And at the same moment, to think about what this institution has in its DNA and its history is interesting to me. And I don't have anything better by way of an answer than what I tried to say tonight. Which is, I don't think it's as simple as saying, oh, it's not just a dispositive science. There's also discourse and cultural capital. But I think maybe one approach to this would be to simply just problematize that. And that's a part of why I think-- if you know me and my work, people in the audience will say, oh, well, you're mixing kettles of fish. And I think it's precisely that mixing, or maybe friction, that I think-- it's not to deny the social science, or the smart cities discourse, or the discourse about mapping, or whatever. It's that, yes, those things are all true. But let's bring them up into some proximity to a conversation about disciplinary formation and our capacities. Because I am confident in saying we don't really have the capacity to do things that are outside of our disciplinary and professional reach. And I don't mean to be arrogant about that. But I do think that what we form as a field matters in terms of what our capacities are. We know that the externalities, both other fields, but also conditions in the world, exceed our disciplinary limits all the time. But I do know that our limits are those that are self-constructed with respect to what we can do in the building. And so my working premise is that if at least we could say, yes, the empirical material is true, but let's bring that up into some friction, some kind of agonism with, well, there's also disciplinary formation in what we're capable of. And in that account, I think we see a pretty healthy marketplace of ideas, in which all sorts of actors are popping up and not just those in this building obviously. And on the one hand, I don't mean to lament a loss of market share or a golden age where we had access to all the good stuff. I don't think that's productive. But maybe it's a matter of finding a place where we can, yes, validate the fact that we have some autonomy in this building. We have a school. We have a tub. We have a dean. And we're able to articulate disciplinary and professional formation. But within that, we also, of course, have to talk about the externalities. We have to talk about the world that we're in and to find ways and spaces in which it's comfortable to do that. Because, again, for far too long I think it's been you've either been describing the world as found out there or you've been talking about what we could do to that world. And we probably need to bring those two things into some more friction. Charles, thank you so much for your incredible leadership over the last six years. And really for opening up in a way the conversation, the discourse, the idea of the project in a way that I'm sure will have an impact on the conversations that we'll have. It's really important that we use the school, as you say, to really open up alternative ways of doing things, of making things. So I'm really grateful. And I think this kind of project, this kind of book, will be very important to enable us to really have those conversations amongst ourselves. So thank you again. And thanks to all of you. Please join us for the reception, which is in room-- I think in 121, or 122, portico rooms generally. OK. Thank you. Bye. [applause]


Early life

John Charles Olmsted was born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1852 to John Olmsted and Mary Cleveland (Perkins) Olmsted. His father John, had contracted tuberculosis, which at the time had no treatment. Fresh air and healthy living, including exercise, were recommended. Some sanatoriums were established in mountain areas.

The John Olmsted family returned to the United States to reside at Tosomock Farm on Staten Island in New York.[1] After his father died, his mother remarried, to John's brother, Frederick Law Olmsted. Frederick adopted John as his son. Later he and Mary had a son of their own, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., born in 1870.


John Olmsted began his career at his father's firm, where he was later joined by his younger brother Frederick. After their father retired, the two took over leadership, establishing the firm as Olmsted Brothers. They each contracted separately for some projects.

Olmsted expressed his design philosophy of integrated park systems into planning projects in such cities as Portland, Maine; Portland, Oregon; Seattle and Spokane, Washington; Dayton, Ohio, and Charleston, South Carolina. In these cities, he pioneered his comprehensive planning philosophy of integrating civic buildings, roads, parks, and greenspaces into livable urban areas.

Olmsted also designed individual parks in New Orleans; Watertown, New York; and Chicago, Illinois. His work in park design led to commissions for numerous institutions such as school campuses, civic buildings, and state capitals, as well as designs for large residential areas, including roads and schools. His work in comprehensive planning for the communities surrounding industrial plants and factories is considered especially noteworthy.

In all his work, John Olmsted retained a sensitivity to the natural beauty of the site, including its views, vistas, and greenways. He wanted to ensure that communities and public areas must be comfortable and inviting. He favored modest, informal structures in a naturalistic setting to large, imposing structures.

His father used him as an assistant in designing landscapes for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.[citation needed] The younger Olmsted had primary responsibility for the 1906 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon, and the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.

In 1899, John Olmsted was a founding member and first president of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Selected works


  1. ^ Witold Rybczynski (1999). A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century. Scribner: New York, p.124.
  2. ^ Grounds at

External links

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