WIf you decide to build a park, in addition to expertise and imagination, you need one thing: patience. A lot of patience! “We agreed,” Frederick Law Olmsted summed up the work of one of his designs that “you can’t get any results four decades earlier,” and he modestly added that his plans were always designed for later impact and thus immediately sacrificed. Success and applause for the future.
But what a success it is! In the second half of the nineteenth century he designed the Emerald Necklace in Boston and the Parc du Mont-Royal in Montreal. Brooklyn, Prospect Park and Ocean Parkway. Manhattan, Riverside Park, Morningside Park, and the highlight of his career, Central Park, for which he transformed marshes into lakes, lowered streets to pedestrians, and laid out a network of winding paths and trails. Numerous bridges over rivers and ponds, but also some streets, were provided with large stones for rocky landscapes, modeling the landscape, planting three hundred thousand shrubs and trees, which to this day give the appearance of a park in the center of New York. Even a forest in its diversity of topography and design can sometimes be believed to be the remnants of the original nature.
Trees: Frederick Law Olmsted would not have lacked the imagination to guess how they would evolve and look like in a distant day. But by contrast, anyone who reads Stanley Greenberg’s photo book “Olmsted Trees” cannot imagine that a hundred and fifty years ago these giants stood in bare enclosures as lean, gentle creatures. With their mighty crowns.
Stanley Greenberg, however, pays little attention to them and focuses on the tribes in black-and-white photographs of the two dozen parks Olmsted designed between Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Massachusetts. The strong pillars are too wide for anyone to embrace them, but they act as a support, leaning like a wall.
The bark is torn and split like no ancient face. Yet the pictures are more like landscapes than portraits—nothing more than likenesses on which a hundred and fifty years of wind and weather have left their marks.
“The Olmsted Trees” By Stanley Greenberg. With lyrics by Kevin Baker, Mindy Thompson Fullilove and Tom Avermaet. Hirmer Verlag, Munich 2022. 160 pages, numerous black and white photographs. Bound, 34.90 euros.
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