Ask the average New Yorker who designed Central Park, and those who know their history will probably say Frederick Law Olmstead--and they would be partially correct. But ask for the other half of the designing duo and watch for the blank stares. Notoriously introverted, Calvert Vaux left a legacy that, along with Central Park, includes Prospect Park in Brooklyn, original portions of both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, as well as many other New York landmarks, yet most people outside of the architectural field have never heard of him. In Country, Park, & City: The Architecture and Life of Calvert Vaux
, Francis R. Kowsky succeeds in rescuing Vaux from obscurity. In setting the record straight, Kowsky describes how Vaux originally approached Olmstead to join him in entering the design competition for Central Park in 1857, and after they won, the more charismatic Olmstead was recognized as the force behind the plan, while Vaux kept to the shadows. Kowsky also reveals Vaux as the originator of apartment-style urban dwellings, a concept that he applied to both upscale and low-rent complexes in New York, and which are now standard metropolitan domiciles. This richly detailed and often esoteric biography is a celebration of an artist who deserves recognition. Kowsky has colorfully put a face to the façade.
"Scrupulously detailed...Kowsky's book is a work of serious scholarship. It is an important contribution to the history of the art and profession of landscape design, and to the context in which Vaux's more famous partner prevailed."--ARTnews
"A handsome effort to rescue from comparative oblivion the architect who shared--and sometimes more than equally--with Frederick Law Olmsted in the design of Central Park and other New York amenities."--The New York Times Book Review
"The fineness of detail in this exhaustive study will delight scholars...Students of the architectural history of New York will welcome the thorough discussion of individual commissions as well as the richness of Kowsky's insight into the personalities of professionals and patrons alike....Kowsky does real service...in demonstrating Clavert Vaux's rightful place beside Olmsted and other better-remembered designers as a major player in the shaping of New York....This will remain the definitive study Vaux's life and work."--The New York Times Book Review
"Kowsky...has produced a definitive biography of Calvert Vaux's life and work that establishes beyond rebuttal his importance in the history of landscape design, and his impressive work as an architect as well....The wealth of detail in Kowsky's book is incredible and a more thorough account of an architect's life is difficult to imagine."--Tom Toles, Buffalo News
"...the first full-length account of the architect's life and work...it treats him seriously, not only as a landscape designer but also as an architect."--New York Review of Books