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Olmsted Expertise

KZLA has a particular experience with master planning and designing for, rehabilitating, and restoring Olmsted-designed landscapes. This included not only those landscapes designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., but also the subsequent firms which later became Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot and then the Olmsted Brothers. In the years since KZLA was established, we have worked on at least 14 projects that were designed by the Olmsted firms. Most recently we have prepared rehabilitation plans for Franklin Park and Jamaica Pond Park – part of the Emerald Necklace in Boston, as well as the Western Promenade Historic Landscape Master Plan for the City of Portland, Maine.

Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. is known as the father of American landscape architecture. In his lifetime, he developed comprehensive park systems for Boston, Buffalo, Milwaukee, and Louisville. His practice as landscape architect began with the competition design for Central Park with then-partner Calvert Vaux in 1858 and continued until 1895. Olmsted used the style of the pastoral landscape to sooth and restore the spirit. The urban park was an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Edges of parks were heavily planted to separate traffic and the constructed from the pastoral. In all cases, the subordination of details to an overall composition was the goal.

 “We want a ground to which people may easily go after their day’s work is done, and where they may stroll for an hour, seeing, hearing and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets, where they shall, in effect, find the city put far away from them...What we want most is simple, broad open space of clean greensward, with sufficient plan of surface and a sufficient number of trees about it to supply a variety of light and shade...We want depth of wood enough about it not only for comfort in hot weather, but to completely shut out the city from our landscapes” 

- Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. related to the Arnold Arboretum

The orchestration of views was especially important. Vantage points were identified very deliberately with a heightened sense of drama through the procession down a carriage road or path leading to that vantage point. The Olmsted firm also manipulated landform to shape spaces and then accented them with planting to play with the patterns of light and shadow. 

To create the illusion of space, the Olmsted firm often used large greenswards punctuated by groves of trees. Planting was often multi-layered with canopy, understory, shrub, and herbaceous layers heavily inspired by native plant communities. 
The Olmsted design ideology separated incongruous uses. Parallel routes for were carefully crafted for through-traffic, pleasure drives, bridle use, and pedestrian strolling. Most projects went well beyond aesthetic considerations incorporating sanitation improvements, drainage improvements, and health benefits for the park users.

Structures were situated within the landscape to appear subordinate to the larger landscape setting. 
Olmsted was profoundly influenced by his travels through the South during the Civil War, and his early life as a farmer in New York. He sought to design landscapes that were respites from dense and dirty city life, and places that welcomed all people: democracy in design.

Recently Completed Projects:

Projects Originally Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, sr., the Olmsted Brothers, or Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot

Western Promenade Historical Landscape Master Plan (2019-current): Portland, Maine
Lowell Memorial Park Rehabilitation (2018-present): Cambridge, Massachusetts
Jamaica Pond Pathway Rehabilitation (2017-current): Boston, Massachusetts
Franklin Park Pathway & Road Rehabilitation (2017-2018): Boston, Massachusetts
Winfield Robbins Memorial Garden Landscape Rehabilitation (2017-2018): Arlington, Massachusetts
The Gardens at Elm Bank/Cheney Estate Landscape Master Plan (2017-2019): Dover, Massachusetts
Charles River Esplanade Tree Management & Succession Plan (2017-current): Boston, Massachusetts
South Park Arboretum Restoration Feasibility Study (2016-2017): Buffalo, New York
University of Rhode Island, Landscape Master Plan (2015-2017): Kingston, Rhode Island
Medal of Honor Park (Independence Square), (2015-2017): South Boston, Massachusetts
Emerald Necklace Tree Inventory, Conditions Assessment & Management Plan (2013-current):

Boston & Brookline, Massachusetts
Phillips Exeter Academy Ford and Academic Quadrangles,  (2012-2013): Exeter, New Hampshire
Phillips Academy Andover Bulfinch Hall (2011-2013): Andover, Massachusetts
Stonehurst: the Robert Treat Paine Estate (2005, 2016): Waltham, Massachusetts


Project Listed Below Were Completed while with Former Firm
Genesee Valley Park Brooks Landing Landscape Restoration (2010-2011): Rochester, New York
Arlington Town Library (2010): Arlington, Massachusetts
Mary Baker Eddy Home (2010): Lynn, Massachusetts
University of New Hampshire (2009-2010): Durham, New Hampshire
Amherst College, James and Stearns Halls (2007): Amherst, Massachusetts
Commonwealth Avenue (1993-2010): Allston, Massachusetts
Arnold Arboretum (2008): Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
Beacon Street (1994-2008): Brookline, Massachusetts
Acadia National Park, Multiple projects (2004): Bar Harbor, Maine
Dey Mansion (2004): Wayne, New Jersey
Bunker Hill Monument (1998): Charlestown, Massachusetts
Delaware Avenue (1996): Buffalo, New York

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