Olmsted Essay

1513 words - 7 pages

Growing up in the Bay Area next to San Francisco ha slead me to become fascinated by the complexity of the cities of the world and how they affect so many people. I love the idea that these cities were all planned and thought up of by individuals working together for a larger goal. The planning of cities affects all its inhabitants in ways that they probably do not even realize which makes these plans and the planning process even more compelling. I am also interested in what makes cities unique. Cities are all made up of roughly the same things: blocks, big buildings, parks, cars, and people. Even though the basic elements of cities are the same they all still have there own unique character. I think one of the most distinguishing factors of cities is how they were designed to accommodate certain needs of their inhabitants outside of where they live or work. Cities can easily be overwhelming or a harsh place to live, which is why certain areas need to be set aside to offer some kind of escape. In addition to being a place to withdraw, parks and recreational areas can be a distinguishing characteristic of a city. In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Park, Union square, the Presidio, the wharfs and many other areas set it apart from all of the other cities of the United States and the world. How the planners of San Francisco thought about the areas that the inhabitants needed outside of work and home helps give it its individuality as a major city. Just like how someone must plan all cities, people planned all the parks and recreational areas of cities that have such a widespread effect. By looking at Fredrick Law Olmsted and the Urban Design and Social Context approach he represents, one can learn more about landscape architecture in cities and urban areas.
I chose Olmsted as the designer I wanted to learn more about because my interest in cities translates into landscape architecture through the planning of urban parks and recreational areas. Olmsted recognized the need for people to escape from the city and saw city parks as essential to this relief. He knew that the cities of his time would only continue to expand and that they had the potential to “affect the mind and the moral strength” of man (Olmsted). He saw how multiple aspects of the city, be it air quality or the crowds, had the potential to negatively affect people (Olmsted). Part of his solution for these problems were parks which could give the people of a city a chance to get fresh air and a reprieve from the streets. He also emphasized the need for different forms of recreation and activities apart from work and home (Olmsted). Olmsted expanded the idea of needing a place to escape from the city to having a park as a central, and essential, feature of the city (Olmsted). Olmsted also called for smaller parks that could connect to the larger one and help structure the growth of the city (Olmsted). He recognized that cities would keep on expanding and that areas needed to be set apart...

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