Campuses Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted

Cobblestone House

Frederick Law Olmsted was an American journalist and landscape architect. He generally held as the father of American landscape architecture.

Olmsted is famous for designing world-renowned urban parks such as Central Park in New York. Olmsted is also famous for changing the face of college campuses in the US.

Colleges and Universities

Campuses do not actually need a huge lawn. A lot of campuses in cities do not have sprawling gardens. Fortunately Olmsted saw the importance of natural topography. Now, we cannot imagine academic life without it being associated to wide stretch of green teeming with ancient trees and structures covered in green creepers.

The brilliant thing about Olmsted’s approach is that he did not rely on old rules and theories. His approach was more practical. He saw the existing landscape, considered the climate, and worked with what was there.  

One of Olmsted’s earliest campus projects was to design a master plan for the College of California, set on arid Oakland hill. Olmsted’s idea was to blend the college with the character of the surrounding neighborhood, with allowance for later modifications and expansion – which led Olmsted to insist on picturesque plan, rather than a formal one.

The building was built four miles away from Oakland’s organized village lots. Years later, Olmsted’s plan proved accommodating when the College of California merged with another school to form the University of California, Berkeley.  Most of the original campus is gone, but Olmsted’s plan can still be seen along Piedmont Avenue.

When he was commissioned to design the campus of Stanford University, he also asserted his plan to work with the natural topography. His idea was to have the buildings nestled into the foothills with a road roving through the woods. However, he had to compromise with the architects – resulting in neatly arranged sandstone quadrangles built on flat surface. Though it did not reflect Olmsted’s original idea, the Stanford University campus is still one of America’s most remarkable schools.

In the course of his career, Olmsted designed numerous campuses and parks. After his death his landscape architecture firm was continued by his sons and their successors.

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One Response to “Campuses Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted”

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