The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) today announced a call for nominations for the 2022 edition of Landslide, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit’s annual thematic report drawing attention to the threats faced by culturally significant American parks, gardens, horticultural features, working landscapes, and “other places that collectively embody our shared landscape heritage.”
Entitled Landslide 2022: The Olmsted Design Legacy, the theme of this year’s report needs little explanation other to say that it coincides with the bicentennial of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.’s birth but does not exclusively focus on the momentous work of the Connecticut-born journalist, social reformer, and “Father of Landscape Architecture” whose most famous creations—Central Park, Prospect Park, and urban park systems in Chicago, Buffalo, Milwaukee, and beyond—were created alongside partner, the London-born architect and landscape designer Calvert Vaux.
As the forthcoming report’s title suggests, endangered landscapes designed by the entire Olmsted clan, namely Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and his older half-brother John Charles Olmsted along with their associates, are also under consideration. Following the retirement of the elder Frederick Law Olmsted in 1895, his son and nephew/adopted son established a successor firm in the form of the Brookline, Massachusetts-based Olmsted Brothers. Although John C. Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. passed away in 1920 and 1957, respectively, the Olmsted family landscape architecture firm remained prolific throughout much of the 20th century and eventually dissolved in 2000 after relocating from suburban Boston to New Hampshire two decades prior. (From 1963 through 1979, the firm was known as Olmsted Associates, Inc. and then Olmsted Office from 1980 until 2000 under Artemas Partridge Richardson; somewhat confusingly, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. had dropped the “Jr.” in 1920.)
Works by the firm first founded in 1898 as the Olmsted Brothers span from coast to coast—from Newark to New Orleans, Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine—and include an extensive list of parks and parkways, gardens public and private, civic complexes, and planned communities along with a staggering number of academic campuses including Johns Hopkins University, Bryn Mawr College, Vassar College, and the University of Washington.
Today, more than 200 Olmsted-designed landscapes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and many are designated as National Historic Landmarks. And although the Olmsted name brings with it a high level of prestige and recognition it does not, as noted by TCLF president and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum, guarantee any sort of invincibility.
“During the past four decades the name Olmsted has become synonymous with greatness in the art of landscape architecture, and Olmsted-designed landscapes are internationally known centerpieces of civic pride,” said Birnbaum in a statement. “However, the Olmsted pedigree is not an insurance policy against ineffective and/or ill-advised stewardship decisions. During this bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., Landslide 2022 aims to make visible those Olmsted firm-designed landscapes that are below the radar or largely unrecognized today as well as to further inspire improved stewardship of better-known places that may be suffering from neglect or insufficient support.”
Like with past Landslide reports, this very Olmstedian edition features a corresponding online exhibition featuring newly commissioned photography, historic images, site plans and other archival materials, and video interviews. As noted by the TCLF, the goal of the initiative, which is one of its four core programs, is to “draw immediate and lasting attention to threatened sites by making them more visible, revealing their value, and promoting public engagement in the form of advocacy and stewardship.” Recent editions of Landslide have been themed around at-risk and threatened landscapes created and championed by women (2020) and similarly endangered landscapes with deep ties to America’s Black, Hispanic, and Native communities (2021).