Constructing Nature: Frederick Law Olmsted

  • The Riverway in 2016, Boston. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and constructed in the 1890s.
  • “Constructing Nature: The Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted” in Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, edited by William Cronon (W.W. Norton, 1995).

    Constructing Nature” is the product of twenty-five years of reflection on Olmsted, including research in the Library of Congress in 1971 and 1994 and in the archives of the Olmsted Historic Site in 1985. I am interested in Olmsted as a practitioner, in how he approached problems similar to those faced by designers today, in the methods he used, his line of reasoning, and the risks he took.

  • Boston's Riverway, during construction in 1892 and three decades later in 1920.
  • Even Niagara Falls is not only a phenomenon of nature, but also the product of design.
  • “Constructing Nature” is part of a book on “Rethinking the Human Place in Nature” and was written in dialogue with a group of scholars at the University of California Humanities Research Institute.