Friday, May 25, 2012

Shaping America: Frederick Law Olmsted

By Annmarie Dean

Now that the weather is nice, there is one place you can almost always count on finding me: Bidwell Parkway on a blanket, under a tree, reading a book or journaling with an Italian soda or iced Scarlet tea. The Buffalo parkway is part of the country’s first and oldest coordinated system of public parks (it’s also beyond beautiful). The park system was co-designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the new subject of a WNED-TV and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc. documentary entitled “Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America.”

OlmstedThe 90-minute program is being created for PBS broadcast, as well as five 30-minute shows about specific Olmsted parks. The film will be chronological, describing Olmsted’s life from his birth in 1822 until his death in 1903 with his vast number of triumphs and tragedies. Take a look inside his professional life that lasted 52 years which included jobs as a surveyor, seaman, farmer, journalist, author and editor; he ran the precursor to the Red Cross, managed one of the world’s largest mining operations and was an influential social reformer. Viewers can also expect to see interviews with scholars, narration and readings from historical characters, including Olmsted himself.

“What makes this such an interesting program is that many people experience his work but don’t know much about him. This program will help shine a spotlight on Olmsted as well as his incredible life story. He was part of many of the significant historical events and movements of the late 19th century,” said Dave Rotterman, WNED vice president of television production. “We’re very pleased with the support of this project and will be launching the production in July.”

Known as the father of American landscape architecture, his list of designs is far too lengthy to even begin to list. He was the co-designer of Central Park and leader of the campaign to protect Niagara Falls. Olmsted was definitely a man ahead of his time. Not only was he among the first to speak out on behalf of the preservation of America, but he took an ecological view of the nation. The man truly was an environmentalist, something that resonates so closely with many of us today.

Are you looking forward to “Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America?” Do you enjoy the Olmsted Park System in Buffalo or his other parks around the United States? Feel free to comment below!

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