The Design Principles of Frederick Law Olmsted

per – retrieved May, 2021

Throughout his career, Frederick Law Olmsted created hundreds of works of landscape architecture. But, his legacy goes far beyond these built masterworks. His work and writings also bequeath a set of design principles that have served as a blueprint for the creation of beautiful and enduring works of landscape architecture ever since.

A Genius of Place
The design should take advantage of unique characteristics of the site, even its disadvantages. The design should be developed and refined with intimate knowledge of the site.

Unified Composition
All elements of the landscape design should be made subordinate to an overarching design purpose. The design should avoid decorative treatment of plantings and structures so that the landscape experience will ring organic and true.

Orchestration of Movement
The composition should subtly direct movement through the landscape. There should be separation of ways, as in parks and parkways, for efficiency and amenity of movement, and to avoid collision or the apprehension of collision, between different kinds of traffic.

Orchestration of Use
The composition should artfully insert a variety of uses into logical precincts, ensuring the best possible site for each use and preventing competition between uses.

Sustainable Design and Environmental Conservation
The design should allow for long-term maintenance and ensure the realization and perpetuation of the design intent. Plant materials should thrive, be non invasive, and require little maintenance. The design should conserve the natural features of the site to the greatest extent possible and provide for the continued ecological health of the area.

A Comprehensive Approach
The composition should be comprehensive and seek to have a healthful influence beyond its boundaries. In the same way, the design must acknowledge and take into consideration what surrounds it. It should create complimentary effects. When possible, public grounds should be connected by greenways and boulevards so as to extend and maximize park spaces.

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