Frederick Law Olmsted, known as the father of American landscape architecture, was co-designer of Central Park, head of the first Yosemite commission, leader of the campaign to protect Niagara Falls, designer of the U.S. Capitol Grounds, site planner for the Great White City of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, planner of Boston’s “Emerald Necklace” of green space and of park systems in many other cities. Olmsted’s pioneering design of the public parks and parkway systems in Buffalo, New York, is the oldest coordinated system in America and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On Friday, June 20 at 9 p.m. WNED-TV Buffalo-Toronto will present a biography of the man who made public parks an essential part of American life with the new documentary Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America.
"Olmsted has a double legacy. On the one hand, he's a super pragmatist; he's a problem solver. At the same time, he's a dreamer. What his parks are all about is finding immensely practical solutions to the problem of building a dream in the middle of the city," says writer Adam Gopnik.
To the pioneer of American landscape architecture, a park was both a work of art and a necessity for urban life. Olmsted's effots to preserve nature created an "environmental ethic" decades before the environmental movement became a force in American politics.
"Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America documents the life, work and legacy of an extraordinary figure," said Donald K. Boswell, WNED/ WBFO president and CEO. "We are thrilled to tell his atonishing story. Over a hundred years later, the impact and genius of Olmsted's system of parks and green spaces still work."
"Olmsted may have been the first truly talented and forward thinking urban planner in the U.S.," said the film's director Lawrence Hott. "How cities are designed, how we live and work in urban areas, how we build and utilize public open spaces, are some of the more important issues facing American cities today. Olmsted knew that 150 years ago." With gorgeous cinematography, creative animation, and compelling commentary, Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America presents the biography of a man who forever changed Americans' relationship with public open spaces.
Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America is a co-production of WNED-TV Buffalo-Toronto and Florentine Films/ Hott Productions, Inc. The documentary is narrated by Stockard Channing and the voice of Olmsted is performed by Campbell Scott. Funding for Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America is provided by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.