Customer Reviews for

Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted

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  • Posted October 30, 2011

    HIGHLY Recommended

    A friend recommended this book to me (her book group was reading it) and she said she couldn't put it down. I could not put this book down either!
    This work is in no way a boring and dry bio. It is unusual and exceptional. It is an amazing story of a brilliant person who has left a legacy that many of us enjoy still today. The author reveals the genius of Olmstead and expounds upon what comes with this level of genius (both the good and bad). I found it very intriguing to have insight into the mindset of Olmstead when was he was designing such places as Central Park, Biltmore, Emerald Necklace in Boston and the Chicago World's Fair, and his goals for each project. Wow...was he talented!

    I would recommend this book to anyone without reservation. I would be surprised to find anyone who would not find this book outstanding. It is exceptionally well-written. I cannot say enough about this book, one of my favorites of all time!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2013

    A definitive biography

    Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, modifying landscapes to produce parks and gardens was the purview of kings and nobility. The concept of producing public parks and gardens open to all can be reliably attributed to one man - Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903). Although that may come as no surprise to those familiar with the history of landscape architecture, the fact that Olmsted's achievements spanned many fields other than landscape architecture is remarkable. Luck was the handmaiden of Olmsted's eccentric and peripatetic personality. For most of his life that luck held out.

    Olmsted was born into moderate means in Hartford, Connecticut. Initially setting out to apply new, scientific concepts to farming, first in Connecticut and then on New York's Staten Island, he grew restless, even while relatively successful, with agriculture. Chance brought him into contact with the founders of the New York Times, where, as one of their first reporters, Olmsted established a tradition and style that greatly influenced the future of that newspaper; and, as a consequence of his reports on life in the pre-Civil War South, had some influence on the course of American history. Just prior to the Civil War, Olmsted fell into the position of architect for New York's Central Park. With characteristic speed and Herculean energy, the Central Park project was well underway before the start of the War, at the start of which Olmsted immediately began looking around for ways to more actively support the Union cause. This he did admirably by creating the U.S. Sanitary Commission. Without any prior military experience and with little precedent in military history, Olmsted essentially invented the means by which combat troops were fed, clothed, housed and their wounds treated. Even before the War had ended, Olmsted was off again on a totally different, and much less successful career path - gold-mining in California. That ill-fated stint in the West, did, however, introduce him to the nascent concept of National Parks; and idea that would contribute to off and on during the years he spent back east establishing his landscape architecture business. The notoriety of Central Park, gained Olmsted's firm an extensive portfolio of lucrative projects, including the Columbian Exposition, the Stanford University campus and the fabulous Biltmore estate.

    Although Olmsted can be recognized as a notable conservationist for his contributions to the establishment for our National Park system, it would not be appropriate to consider him in any was an early environmentalist. First and foremost, Olmsted was an artist who employed natural and manmade landscape elements much the same as painters employ color and texture. He designed landscapes not to bring the public into nature but to create an experience similar to that of an art museum.

    In the end, Olmsted mental instability landed him as a patient in an asylum whose grounds he had himself designed.

    In The Genius of Place Justin Martin has produced a fine, balanced biography of a great historical figure. The book is organized into 7 parts with a total of 32, mostly short, chapters. The eBook reviewed here suffered from non-functional links to both extensive Notes and several figures and photographs.

    Richard R. Pardi Environmental Science William Paterson University

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    Posted November 15, 2011

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