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In a brilliant collaboration between writer and subject, Witold Rybczynski, the bestselling author of Now I Sit Me Down, illuminates Frederick Law Olmsted s role as a major cultural figure at the epicenter of nineteenth century American history.We know Olmsted through the physical legacy of his stunning landscapes among them, New York s Central Park, California s StanfordIn a brilliant collaboration between writer and subject, Witold Rybczynski, the bestselling author of Now I Sit Me Down, illuminates Frederick Law Olmsted s role as a major cultural figure at the epicenter of nineteenth century American history.We know Olmsted through the physical legacy of his stunning landscapes among them, New York s Central Park, California s Stanford University campus, and Boston s Back Bay Fens But Olmsted s contemporaries knew a man of even extraordinarily diverse talents Born in 1822, he traveled to China on a merchant ship at the age of twenty one He cofounded The Nation magazine and was an early voice against slavery He managed California s largest gold mine and, during the Civil War, served as the executive secretary to the United States Sanitary Commission, the precursor of the Red Cross.Rybczynski s passion for his subject and his understanding of Olmsted s immense complexity and accomplishments make his book a triumphant work In A Clearing in the Distance, the story of a great nineteenth century American becomes an intellectual adventure.
He designed Central Park and Belle Isle. A handy guy to have around.
A Clearing in the Distance is a highly enjoyable book about Frederick Law Olmsted who is commonly held to be the greatest Landscape Architect in American history. Central Park is his most famous project but he also built Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Mount Royal in Montreal, Chicago's Riverside parks; the park system for Buffalo, Wisconsin's grand necklace of parks; and the Niagara Reservation at Niagara Falls. Rybczynski provides a wonderful life story of multi-faceted individual, a thorough revie [...]
A wonderful look into the life of one America's early most successful landscape architects. An amazing and illustrious career. Seems that every where ones goes in the US his influence lives on. I have a new appreciation for parks and public gardens.
I have all my life been considering distant effects and always sacrificing immediate success and applause to that of the future. In laying out Central Park we determined to think of no result to be realized in less than forty years.So many surprises. Olmsted was an autodidact. A slow starter, a dabbler in disparate enterprises, he kept afloat with his father's loans. He was his father's 'Central Park', a long investment whose glories would become apparent in the future. Fame first came as a jour [...]
This was my loooong, involved summer read. I try to do one of those each summer, because I have a really hard time with long books: no matter how good they are, I start drifting near the end. This wasn't easy to get through, but totally worth it and I recommend it.Rybczynski does his best work in the sections about Olmsted, the Man, and not Olmsted, the Landscape Architect. Olmsted truly comes off, throughout the book, as just a great guy - someone I'd genuinely like as a human being and want to [...]
Olmsted turns out to be a fascinating man, with aspects to his character I had never heard of. I would give this a five except that the information about the people Olmsted worked with, and about details of various parks may be too detailed for the casual reader such as myself. I gained an understanding from this book, perhaps not be quite what the author intended but highly valuable, something I hope I will become part of my awareness: I now find that I am looking at landscaping and parks with [...]
Jointly a biography of Frederick Law Olmsted (Senior - not whom many think of -- that one is his youngest son) and a portrait of 19th century America, this book clearly demonstrates the milieu in which Olmsted operated and the far-reaching effects that his thought and work had - not only on landscape architecture, but on other kinds of planning, too (National Forest Service, for example). Without calling it such, the author illustrates this time as a golden age of American architecture as well a [...]
Reading this book established Frederick Law Olmsted as one of my favorite design heroes. Historical. Moving. I loved this book.
Loved this book about Frederick Law Olmsted. I don't remember the layout of Central Park in NYC very well, since it's been many years since I wandered through there, but that's his design.
Well last Sunday in reading the email I get from The New Yorker on weekends was an old article by Adam Gopnik (I see now it was 1997) about Frederick Law Olmsted and the making of Central Park in NYC. He said that Olmsted was friends with U. S. Grant and I knew that John Fremont had promoted Grant in Missouri during the Civil War. Well I also see that Olmsted managed the Mariposa (which was Fremont's land in California and where he was one of the few to mine gold on his own land---there were no [...]
Rybczynski's flowing, natural writing style suits his subject: the man who made landscape architecture both an art and a profession. I first became aware of Olmsted many years ago as the journalist author of a book summarizing his tour of the slave states in the 1850s. Then I learned he was the co-designer of New York's Central Park. And then that he designed many more public spaces in the U.S. He did much more as well, all without benefit of a college education. He seems to have been a natural [...]
Well written biography that was thorough yet didn't get bogged down and kept this readers interest throughout. Olmsted was definitely a man ahead of his times and while I knew of his ability to be forward thinking in his landscape architecture before reading this I did not know about his pre- Civil War journeys to the south and I was very interested in his thoughts and assessments of it. Would love to get my hands on some of those writings. Fascinating man!
With a better editor this could have been great. Well-researched, but man it just gets so self-indulgent. The author can't seem to help but drop into first person in a way that's really jarring and there are these weird novelistic interludes that add little to the story (but that you can't skip because they do contain bits you'd need to understand what follows).
I read one half of this book, through his work on Central Park, and will likely not pick it up again except as a reference for his other major projects. Interesting guy, immensely talented, but the book isn't particularly propulsive. Will hold on to it in anticipation of a trip to NYC!
A fascinating look at the birth of urban planning and landscape architecture through the life of a man who considered his designs of Central Park, Prospect Park, and countless others to be secondary to his writing. Could have done without the fictionalized interludes.
Whew - finally finished this dense biography! But well worth the time, because I'd known nothing about this incredibly accomplished man, who designed Central Park, the Biltmore grounds, Stanford and Yale campuses etc etc. - the list is unbelievable. So glad I read it!
Earnest, well written, thoughtful, zzzzz . . . I kept putting this book down and failing to pick it up again. Damn. Olmsted is such a key figure in American history. Wish I'd been able to stick it out.
Rybczynski's books is a straightforward mix of biography and a somewhat involved appreciation of Olmsted's work as a landscape architect. Olmsted's lack of direction is emphasized in the early years, and his facility as an administrator and visionary artist, and an important public figure, as all men of the 19th century seemed to be, are dealt with in the second half of the book. While I would've liked more detail on his travels in the southern United States and California, and more visual descr [...]
For those of you who may not be familiar with Frederick Law Olmsted, I must assure you that you probably are and don't know it. He was one of the country's foremost landscape architects -- a trail blazer. He was responsible in part for the design of Central Park in New York City. He designed the Capitol grounds and the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. He designed Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The most surprising aspect of Olmsted's biography is learning that he was a true rolling stone. He didn't f [...]
I had no idea Frederick Law Olmstead was such a Renaissance man. His ideas were so ahead of histime, especially in treatment of the land and how cities should develop. He had little formal educationyet wrote well, was exceeding thoughtful and observant. This is not just a biography of Olmstead, but a history of our country dealing with the Civil War and its aftermath and growing throughout the 18th century from rural to urban.
A compelling biography of Frederick Law Olmstead, one of America's pioneer landscape architects, portraying the man, his accomplishments, and why those accomplishments matter today. His works include New York City's Central Park, Brooklyn's Prospect Park, numerous private commissions such as the Vanderbilt Biltmore estate in North Carolina, and many others parks and projects across the country. While long in deciding what to do with his life--doing turns as merchant seaman, farmer, writer--Olmst [...]
This is a great bio of a man who had six or seven careers--each one worthy of its own book. FLO was of course the landscape architect of Central Park, but also a key figure in abolition, military medicine (he organized the Union medic system during the Civil War), the California Gold Rush, Chicago World's Fair of 1893, and establishment of the National Park System. Like "Team of Rivals," this book is seeped in the hardships of life in the 19th century, which makes you appreciate FLO's accomplish [...]
This book provides a look at the life of Frederick Law Olmsted, the man who contributed to most of America's famous places (Central Park, Prospect Park, the Capitol, Stanford, Berkley, Biltmore) and some less famous places (Chicago's Columbian Exposition, Mount Royal in Montreal). He was a landscape architect who detested the term. (He preferred "sylvan artist.") Regardless what you call it, he's a fascinating person with extremely interesting thoughts. I got interested in him while reading The [...]
The Olmsted name come up many times as I grew up. This book has clarified for me that the projects closest to my home--the Lewis and Clark Exposition, the Forty Mile Loop, the Seattle Park System and University of Washington campus were projects of this man's son (Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.). The subject of this biography, F.L.O was a very interesting man and had a big impact on this country. This book tells of his eclectic education and experiences that contributed to his background as a landsca [...]
This is a very interesting book about Fredrick Law Olmsted, who became one of the earliest park and public landscape planners in the second half of the Nineteenth Century. It details his planning of Central Park, N.Y Prospect Park, Brooklyn, The World's Fair in Chicago, involvement in planning Yosemite Nat'l Park, and many other public landscapes. The author details the various struggles and conflicts involved in the planning and execution of these large projects. He was also a leader in urban p [...]
Picked up this biography on a visit to the Biltmore House. It wasn't quite what I expected- there are only a couple of pages out of the entire book devoted to the Biltmore House grounds; however, the book is still an interesting portrait of an amazing figure in 19th Century America. Mr. Olmsted, probably best known as the landscaper & designer of Central Park, came to his career as a landscape architect after several attempts at other careers. He was an accomplished writer and journalist, wo [...]
I purchased this book as a souvenir of my visit to the Biltmore Estate, part of the Olmsted legacy. True biography, by virtue of its need to adhere to rigid documentation requirements, can be a lot of dry factual information cluttered with footnotes. This wasn't. I had read other Rybczynski books before and knew him to be eminently well qualified in the architectural field. His professional insights, as well as his personable writing style, really served to bring Frederick Olmsted to life. Mr. O [...]
Here is the story of one of our unsung national heroes -- Frederick Law Olmsted -- who, among other things, is partially responsible for the national park system we all take for granted. His body of work includes Central Park, the U.S. Capitol grounds, the grounds of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, and of course the Biltmore estate. These are only the best known of his projects -- there are literally dozens more. This volume traces Olmsted's life from his youth to his death. We get a r [...]
Very well-written and researched. I really enjoyed reading this, though it took me awhile. These 19th century gentlemen certainly had fascinating lives. They just decided, "Well, I guess I'll learn some engineering," or "I guess I'll be an architect." And then they did, no four year degree required. Olmstead was a fascinating character, and the other fascinating character in the book was, as the title suggests, America in the 19th century. I frankly could have used more of 19th century America, [...]
An interesting story about the guy who created the profession of landscape architect/designer through unbelievable projects like Central Park and the Chicago Worlds Fair.But much more interesting is the story of Olmstead the journalist who travelled three times through the South prior to the Civil War to document the facts on the ground about slavery. He was not really a reformer, but came away with the simple conclusion that slavery was not economically viable - the cost of slaves was higher th [...]