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Pioneers of American Landscape Design (Professional Architecture) Hardcover – May 23, 2000

ISBN-13: 063-9785319023 ISBN-10: 0071344209 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Excerpt from the Winter 2000-2001 issue.

It is the most comprehensive biographical encyclopedia of the men and women who shaped and designed our cultural landscape. (Book Notes 2003-11-26)

From "Books"

by James S. Russell, AIA

Who designed America? Pioneers of American Landscape Design, without overtly intending to, makes a compelling case that landscape architects were far more important than architects in shaping America's designed environment. To many architects, a landscape architect is a horticulturalist with attitude. But these pioneers laid out towns, made the National Park System accessible, and designed the limited-access parkways that preceded the grim concrete trenches we call the Interstate Highway System.

Pioneers of American Landscape Design, though isn't a tract. It's a useful and eye-opening encyclopedia describing the vision and work of some 160 people who shaped America by designing gardens, parks, and roads, as well as towns and vast multistate territories. Amazingly, it is the first such compendium. Charles Birnbaum is the coordinator of the National Park Services Historic Landscape Initiative; coeditor Robin Karson is executive director of the Library of American History. They joined forces with Catha Grace Rambusch, the director of the Catalog of Landscape Records in the United States, at Wave Hill, to present material on designers whose efforts are widely scattered and little known. ...

Most of these entries, from dozens of authorities, are readable; many are fascinating. (At the back is a useful list of sites open to the public.) Taken together, the biographies describe an endeavor to which Americans feel closer than to architecture. People occupy buildings and live in cities, but their hearts are often out on the prairie or in the mountains. By poignantly expressing the nation's connection to the land and to its vast and often frightening wilderness, these "cultural landscapes," as Birnbaum calls them, tap into something deep and emotional to which the architect is only occasionally allowed access. (Architectural Record 2002-07-01)

From Landscape Architecture Bookstore:

"It is an inspiration to meet the giants upon whose shoulders we stand...a required volume in any serious landscape architecture professional's library." (Landscape Architecture 2002-04-01)

This book is the important reference we have needed for a long time. A volume of breadth, depth, and excellence, it pulls together the diverse and fascinating story of American landscape design.

In the hefty collection of books on our gardening shelves by famous British authors, there is no complete account of the development of our national landscape. Too little space is devoted to our college campuses, the curves in our parkways, and the gentle slopes of our cemeteries, but this much-needed work fills that void.

An alphabetical parade of 160 names proceeds from "Abbott, Staney William (1908-1975)" through "Yoch, Florence (1890-1972)." More than 100 distinguished and dedicated authors have summarized the lives and major works of their subjects. Each entry--usually two or three pages--is followed by a bibliography with comments and a list of relevant primary documents and their locations.

The biographies reveal surprising details about even well-known gardens. For example, the eliptical hornbeam hedge at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., often attributed to Beatrix Farrand, is described as Alden Hopkins' "modification" of the Farrand design. In turn, Donald Parker and Ralph Griswold, we learn, completed Hopkins' plans for the east lawn gardens of the University of Virginia after his death. The lives and plans of the featured designers frequently intersected, and the book cross-references these events.

Landscape plans, oil portraits, black-and-white photographs, engravings, and maps from every possible collection and archive bring to life a vast inventory of varied landscapes--some extant, some long vanished, some never realized. We see Lester Rowntree, known for her early appreciation of California natives, standing with her faithful burro on a collecting trip into the backcountry. James C. Rose appears holding a model of his house he made from scraps while stationed at Okinawa during World War II. A striking black-and-white study of the Willis Ward estate in Montecito, California, features two unmatched lawn chairs in the foreground of a vista culminating in the Santa Inez Mountains. The range of eloquent and evocative images documents the subtle changes in the American landscape over the centries as fully as the worlds of the text.

My only complaint about PIONEERS OF AMERICAN LANDSCAPE DESIGN is that not all the photographs are dated. It would have been helpful to know the year of each photograph, where possible, because gardens and landscapes are notoriously subject to change and revision. Some of the images appear to have been taken fairly recently, while others are clearly archival.

At the end of the book is a list of "Sites Accessible To the Public," with addresses and telephone numbers. A discreet symbol alerts readers to sites available only by appointment. Some entries, such as that for Benjamin Banneker's overall plan of Washington, D.C., even suggest where to find the best vantage point.

A book of this importance will, I'm sure, translate into action. Readers will consume the text, pore over the photos, and vist the existing designs. Some will campaign to save remnants of significant landscapes in their own neighborhoods. Those who take the time to fully explore this significant addition to our national library will find they eye our landscapes with a whole new range of understanding and appreciation. (American Gardener 2001-11-01)

Pioneers of American Landscape Design documents the lives and design work of 162 landscape practitioners, both well-known and unsung, all of whom played significant roles in shaping America's designed landscape heritage. Because many of the designers featured in the book have been absent from print, their landscapes have consequently been unsympathetically altered, lost, or threatened by demolition. Pioneers is providing the spark for better-informed historic preservation. (Landscape Architecture 2001-11-01)

In his introduction, Charles Birnbaum says that this project was initiated because there was no one “sourcebook or finding aid for researchers seeking information on those visionary practitioners who have had a significant impact on the designed American landscape.” Eight years in the making and the result of hundreds of people working together, PIONEERS OF AMERICAN LANDSCAPE DESIGN attempts to meet the need for such a resource and does so admirably. As the first encyclopedia published about American landscape practitioners, it is an important addition to the library of anyone with an interest in American cultural history.

This reference book, in the form of engaging biographical essays, contains information on the lives, careers, design philosophies, and surviving landscape legacies of 160 people who have played vital roles in shaping the American land. These entries are supplemented by more than 450 illustrations, including photographs, plans, sections, engravings, and paintings, many of which were previously unpublished. Each entry includes three bibliographic citations for further research, and an additional feature elevates this resource above more traditional encyclopedias—a listing of sites across the country accessible to the public, complete with addresses and phone numbers. In a profession in which the phenomenal experience of a place is primary to understanding the work—and a more powerful teaching tool than a textbook—such a list is a gift to the reader. The book does, however, lack an index and a chronology. While listing the pioneers in alphabetical order makes locating information about each person easy, the reader needs more help when looking for historical connections. A timeline detailing when each practitioner was active, along with a few words about his or her role, would facilitate historical explanation.

Birnbaum and Karson are to be commended for including people from professions such as engineering, horticulture, landscape design, and journalism along with landscape architects. As a result, readers can learn about the achievements of Harlan Bartholomew, a civil engineer and planner who was instrumental in designing our highway and interstate system, and Liberty Hyde Bailey, a well-known horticulturist and landscape designer, in addition to such legendary landscape architects as Thomas Church, Beatrix Jones Farrand, and James Rose. The inclusion of men and women from a wide cross section of professions reveals the interconnectedness among disciplines and recognizes the contributions of those previously overlooked, for example the relatively unknown Ernst Bowditch, a landscape gardener in Boston who frequently worked with Frederick Law Olmstead, Sr. and John Charles Olmstead as a surveyor and draftsman.

Landscape preservation and ecological design are two themes that recur throughout the book. We are reminded that ecology-related issues did not recently emerge; many men and women spent their lives integrating the principles of design with the local landscape, for example, Jens Jensen and Alfred Caldwell, who used the natural environment as a foundation for their philosophy; Stanley Abbott, the force behind the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, who worked tirelessly to develop a roadway that adapted to mountain terrain while preserving features long a part of traditional mountain life; Marjorie Sewell Cautley, who emphasized the use of native plants in her projects; and Stephen Child, who based his design of the Solana subdivision in Tucson, Arizona on topography and native vegetation.

Two hundred years ago, the American landscape was relatively untouched, yet as a comparatively young country we enjoy a rich heritage of innovation. PIONEERS OF AMERICAN LANDSCAPE DESIGN brings those innovators to life. (Aaron, Melissa L. Land Forum 2001-09-19)

Surveys and Guidebooks
Charles A. Birnbaum and Robin Karson, editors
Pioneers of the American Landscape Design
New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000, ISBN: 007-134420-9

In the early 1860s, Calvert Vaux chided Frederick Law Olmstead for abandoning Central Park in its earliest stages of development to manage a gold mine in California. Vaux told Olmstead that he had made a mistake leaving the field of landscape architecture, which, Vaux maintained, God had put him on earth to practice. He also expressed his belief that both he and Olmstead were under a serious obligation to the future of the profession. As the winners of the Central Park competition, they had been placed in a special position to foster the professionalization of landscape architecture. Vaux’s appeal to Olmstead’s conscious eventually won the day and the great man returned to New York in 1865 and to the profession that has since become synonymous with his name.

While Olmstead is well known as America’s great landscape designer (though this story of the near abandonment of the field is not), the many others who came before and after him have not been so well studied. Until now, there has been no comprehensive source book in which one could find the stories of these other men and women who helped shape America’s landscape. PIONEERS OF AMERICAN LANDSCAPE DESIGN attempts to change that by presenting the biographies of 160 people who played important roles in forming the public and private landscapes of our country. Over 100 researchers authored the individual entries, presenting details of the subject’s life, professional training, major projects, and design philosophy. Each entry ends with an annotated bibliography: The editors, Charles Birnbaum and Robin Karson, interpreted their mission broadly to include not only those who called themselves landscape architects, but also horticulturists, writers, teachers, and designers. The entry for Guy Lowell, for example, refers to him as “architect, landscape architect, educator, author” (230). Others are “conservationist,” “activist,” “planner,” or “journalist.” In other words, there is far more than traditional landscape architecture covered here.

The text is well illustrated with ample photographs, plan, and drawings, and most biographies are accompanied by a portrait. The alphabetical format of the biographical dictionary is logical and makes the book easy to use, but it prevents a historical overview. That is provided to some extent in Birnbaum’s introduction, but it is more of a bibliographic review of the field than a narrative of its development.

While Central Park was the project that started the American park movement and inaugurated landscape architecture as a serious discipline, it was by no means the first expression of landscape design in America. The editors have included such notable early shapers of the land as Thomas Jefferson, who, C. Allen Brown tells us, wrote “some of the earliest documented musings on the picturesque from the pen of a colonial American (199); George Washington, who by opening the sides of the hyphens flanking Mount Vernon, offered the visitor “flashing slices of the view of the Potomac River framed by the arches [that] are practically cinematic” (428); the Belgian émigré André Parmentier, who in the 1820s, according to Cynthia Zaitzevsky, as “especially significant as a transmitter of the European picturesque style into American landscape design” (286); and Andrew Jackson Downing, the man who David Schuyler explains gave mid-nineteenth century American middle-class homeowners their first lessons in gardening and landscape design. Nonetheless, the titles these men had—landscape gardener, horticulturist, author, and nursery owner—indicate how tentative a place landscape design occupied in American culture until the second half of the nineteenth century.

Avocation gave way to vocation after the Civil War, when the term landscape architect began to bre used consistently to describe men and women who laid out a growing number of public parks, cemeteries, private estates, and institutions. This heroic age of American landscape design included such luminaries as Horace Cleveland, Jacob Weidenmann, Howard Daniels, and Frank J. Scott. Vaux and Olmstead receive thorough coverage from Joy Kestenbaum and Charles Beveridge, respectively. But what will be fresh information for many is the story Arleyn Levee tells of Olmstead’s stepson and son, John C. Olmstead and Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., who continued the Olmstead firm for twenty-five years after their father retired in 1895. It was the largest landscape architecture business in the country: John C. not only headed it, he was also active in organizations that promoted the profession: as first President of the American Society of Landscape Architects he had much to say about early standards of practice and membership. Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. was instrumental in creating the Harvard program in landscape architecture, the first academic course of study in the field. He also became a major player in the City Beautiful Movement, and as president of the National Conference on City Planning he “helped lay the theoretical foundation for the new discipline” (274). The Olmstead office also served as an unofficial school for landscape architects; in the introduction, Charles Birnbaum lists more than fifteen professionals who worked there (xxiii), including Myrl Bottomley, Warren H. Manning, and Arthur Shurcliff.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many women began to achieve success as landscape architects. Beatrix Farrand and Ellen Shipman are probably familiar names to readers of the JSAH, but many of the female landscape architects discussed in this book will not be so well known. Their inclusion greatly enhances the interest of this book and attests to the thoroughness of the research. It also suggests that landscape architecture, perhaps more than architecture—and, indeed, more than most professions other than teaching—was an occupation accessible to women. Many of them excelled in garden design. Nellie B. Allen attended the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture for Women in Groton, Mass., and during the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s laid out splendid gardens for many well-to-do clients. Rose Isabel Greeley enjoyed a wide reputation for her abundantly flowered city gardens; and Mary Cruger Coffin, who studied at MIT before opening her own office in New York in the early 1920’s, topped the list of her many accomplishments with her 1928 plan for the grounds of Winterthur. One of the most influential women included here relied on the pen rather than the spade—Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer’s writings on landscape architecture are among the most perceptive and articulate in the literature. Her Art-Out-of-Doors (1893), says Kate Laliberte, “was so successful and influential in landscape gardening theory, addressing the relationship between fitness and breadth of design and finer details such as roads, formal flower beds, and trees, that in its 1925 reprint, Van Rensselaer added three chapters and an appendix of other books on landscape architecture” (403).

By the mid-twentieth century, a wide range of engineers, planners, authors, and educators shared responsibility with landscape architects for shaping America’s outdoor spaces. The number of people involved in designing the landscape grew considerably over the previous decades. Pioneers chronicles many who were hired by public agencies and private developers to lay out streets and highways, grounds around public and institutional buildings, military installations, international expositions, shopping centers, and residential suburbs. And while there is little critical analysis in these largely laudatory biographies, one can sense the onset of concerns about urban sprawl in a number of them.

Pioneers is itself an outgrowth of several pioneering efforts begun in the last decade to preserve and study designed landscapes. The major impulse came from preservationists who asserted that designed landscapes merited preservation on equal terms with architectural and historical landmarks. The CATALOG of Landscape Records in the United States, the National Park Service Historic Landscape Initiative, and the American Library of Landscape History started collecting information on historic landscapes and their creators. The book developed out of these worthy endeavors, and in fact was anticipated by several earlier NPS publications. Given the fact that these important data bases exist, it is lamentable that no Web site addresses are given anywhere in this volume.

Still, there is very little to be critical of in this fine book. Its usefulness as a reference tool and guide might have been improved by an index rather than the listing of sites open to the public that appears at the end. The small color photographs, which repeat black-and-white views found elsewhere in the text, add little but expense. But these are minor complaints. The editors, Birnbaum and Karson of the American Library of Landscape History, and the small battalion of authors they have assembled have done an admirable job of balancing breadth with depth. Their book marks a new level of scholarship in a field that has long been a stepchild of architectural history. We await a full narrative history of landscape architecture in America. But Pioneers of American Landscape Design will be for many years the authoritative source we will turn to for essential information on the men and women who molded so much of America’s outdoor space. (Kowsky, Francis R The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 2001-09-01)

Preservation is about people as much as the build world, and if you enjoy profiles like OHJ’s “Who They Were” series, you’ll want to get your hands on PIONEERS OF AMERICAN LANDSCAPE DESIGN by Charles Birnbaum and Robin Karson. Birnbaum is coordinator of the National Park Service’s Historic Landscape Initiative, and Karson is executive director of the Library of American Landscape History. They and several dozen contributing writers and researchers have put together 160 capsule biographies of people who’ve helped shape our country’s landscape, illustrated with 450 plans and drawings.

As a rule, biographies aren’t my first choice of recreational reading, but this book is packaged so well it’s hard to put down. The historic photographs are well chosen for piquing curiosity about the text, whether magnificent formal gardens at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York; a monument like the Statue of Liberty; a natural landscape such as Acadia National Park in Maine; the pastoral view from the Elmdendorf Horse Farm in Kentucky; a residential landscape in Duluth, Minnesota; or pictures of people, such as Robert Ludlow Fowler, Jr. mowing his Katonah, New York, lawn in his suit.

The book began with a 1989 coffeshop conversation where Birnbaum and two other landscape historians bemoaned the fact that, besides Frederick Law Olmstead, the names of American landscape designers are almost completely unknown. For example, many people may know that Pierre Charles L’Enfant laid out the nation’s capital. They may not have heard of Benjamin Banneker, grandson of a white indentured servant who freed two black slaves and married one of them. (His mother found his father the same way.) Thomas Jefferson chose Banneker to work with L’Enfant and geographer Andrew Ellicott in part because he thought Banneker’s pleasant demeanor would help subdue the hot-tempered Frenchman.

Banneker was not a landscape architect but a surveyor and astronomer. Many of those in the book also shaped the national landscape through other fields—writing, teaching, conservation, or horticulture. Lester Rowntree—born Gertrude Ellen Lester—traveled the backcountry of California on a burro to document its native plants. Genevieve Gillette helped preserve two seashores and 30 parks in Michigan.

Landscape architects are stereotyped as focusing on the “built environment” at the expense of the “cultural environment”—our natural landscapes—so this book gains a lot of extra credit for including pioneers of preserving that heritage.

The book is well balanced geographically, and you’re bound to read about a park system, a cemetery, or a planned community that you know well. I enjoyed reading about Sidney and Herbert Hare, who did so much work in the Kansas City area where I used to live, along with Olmstead protégé George Edward Kessler. The latter’s influence also touched Denver, Dallas, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and many other cities.

This book is so valuable it seems niggling to bring up any criticisms, although I have a couple. There are 150 color plates reproduced, but all of them seem to be photos that appear in black and white elsewhere. Why not more black-and-white images to take their places? The back of the book contains a helpful list of public sites designed or preserved by many of the practitioners, but no cross index. If you forget who designed the Tara set for Gone With the Wind (answer: Frances Yoch), it’s difficult to find the information again. Including such an index, however, would have made the already almost 500-page book impossibly hefty.

Each entry ends with a short bibliography, so that if you find these people as fascinating as I did, you can go to the library and learn more about them. (Fisher, Kathleen Old-House Journal 2001-08-01)

Painted on a wall of a local CD music store is a branching diagram and time line describing the influence and flow of ideas from composer to composer for the last 250 years of classical music. Having but a little experience with the music, one can begin to understand the development and the importance of each of the types to its time and place and to its successors. So it is with the lives and work of the people who have created the idea of landscape architecture. It is like any other art. The practitioners have created the legacy. The flow and the influence of one upon another, while not accidental, is a record built in retrospect. Many of the people and the works described in this book are broadly documented and well known, but others have a more local significance. They are all important, and their works seem to have withstood the tests of time. Although the individuals are presented alphabetically, the book can be a time line and a source of constructing the flow and development of landscape architecture, as well as stitching together and defining its common base.

The breadth of landscape architecture’s legacy, based on the lives and work of the practitioners reviewed in the book, is quite remarkable. These landscape architects designed projects after carefully examining the physical context of our everyday lives, thereby shaping public perceptions about the built environment as well as the special gardens and commemorative places throughout America. The National Park Service’s Historic Landscape Initiative and the Library of American History’s editors have wisely chosen to present the broadest array of practitioners. For example, both Benton MacKaye, a New England planner, conservationist, and forester, and J.B. Jackson, a landscape architect, educator, and author who settled in New Mexico, believed in the importance of landscape to everyday life. Their views represent each end of that spectrum—MacKaye is the regionalist and Jackson, the localist. Makers of the public landscape range from Thomas Jefferson, who created the iconic American campus, to John Nolen, the principal definer of modern American community design. Designers of estates, suburban developments, horticulture, garden design, parks, and parkways are represented in the book.

The 104 contributors, all of whom are teachers or practitioners, offer their unique critical insights into the state of landscape design. The articles are well written, signed, and evenly edited. In their subtexts they represent the diversity of interest and current cross-section of theory and criticism in the field. (Wilkenson, Richard North Carolina Historical Review 2001-04-01)

Excerpt from review by Adrian Higgins

An important log of American designers and their known work, a vital tool in any preservation effort. (The Washington Post 2001-03-29)

Surveying the best gift books unearths treasures By Keith Runyon ... a veritable encyclopedia of our nation's outdoor heritage. As the book notes, "horticulture and history, commerce and culture, aesthetics and engineering -- all these and more intersect at the decision points of landscape architecture." Though pioneer Frederick Law Olmsted -- well known for his contributions in this region -- is well accounted for in this volume, so are many others who are less well known. one other interesting fact is that women have long made an impact on landscape design, perhaps more than in traditional architecture. ... (The Louisville Courier-Journal 2000-12-17)

Excerpts from Article by Mac Griswold

...Over the past 10 years, the preservation movement that is slowly documenting and preserving American designed landscapes has matured. One of the results is "Pioneers of American Landscape Design" ... a handsome encyclopedia offering 160 short biographies of American landscape movers and shapers...the book stretches the conventional idea of "landscape" past the residential garden to include designs for urban centers, freeways, cemeteries, suburban developments and wilderness preserves. ... (The Wall Street Journal 2000-12-15)

The Armchair Gardener by Paula Panich

Pioneers of Landscape Design…will serve as a consciousness-raiser for what I hope will be thousands of American garden lovers, garden and park preservers, American history lovers—anyone who loves the land of this country and the efforts that have been made to create and preserve beautiful outdoor spaces…even the garden- and landscape-savvy may well learn something on almost every page…It is a chronicle of a collective American creative spirit as it relates to the landscape…also a chronicle of individual artists who struggled to live, and to make a living, expressing their artistic visions…I was moved by the sheer will and genius of many of these pioneers…Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)…Who can resist this story?…The story of Alfred Caldwell (1903-1998) should be read by anyone engaged in creative work…his quest for knowledge and freshness never ceased…Caldwell was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright; his subsequent work was championed by Mies van der Rohe…Equally compelling, and far less known, are the stories of the women—landscape architects, designers, and horticulturists—who made their marks in gardens and landscapes across the country…Marjorie Sewell Caultley (1891-1954)…in 1924 her career took a “profound turn” as writer Neil Walker says, when she was hired by two wealthy philanthropists who supported the Garden City movement…Her contributions were to use native plants, and the orientation of houses and gardens to face an interior common area. (DIRT: A Garden Journal from the Connecticut River Valley 2000-12-01)

Excerpts from article. Can be found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/11/18/living/19CUT.html

Landscape Pioneers: A Tribute By Anne Raver

It's the first of its kind in America. "We see it as a bible, the keystone for further research and reveleation," said Catha Grace Rambusch, director of the Catalog of Landscape Records in the United States ... Each succinct biography, often eloquently drawn, strives to capture the essence of its subject. ... The book is also a valuable tool for residents in towns and cities nationwide that had no easily available reference point for understanding their own landscapes. ... The book has united preservationists trying to drum up interest and money to save long-neglected parks whose designers were never recorded or had been long forgotten ... "Pioneers" can also be used as a kind of travelogue, thanks to the list at the back of the book "Sites Accessbile to the Public," complete with addresses and phone numbers. (The New York Times 2000-11-19)

From article by Patricia Lowry

Pioneers will quickly become an indispensable resource for anyone working in the field. Attractively designed and packed with plans and photographs. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2000-09-30)

From article by Margareeta Darnall

For historians of the American landscape, Pioneers is one of the most useful reference volumes to have appeared in many years. (California Garden & Landscape History Journal 2000-09-01)

Publication: Landscape Architecture Magazine Issue: September, 2000

Book: Pioneers of American Landscape Design, edited by Charles Birnbaum, FASLA, and Robin Karson: New York, McGraw-Hill, 2000; 486 pages, $59.95.

Written by Bob Scarfo, Ph.D. in social geography and associate professor at Washington State University's Interdisciplinary Design Institute in Spokane, Washington.

Excerpts from review: Charles Birnbaum and Robin Karson have, with Pioneers of American Landscape Design, made an incalculable contribution to America's heritage, landscape architectural history, and the depth and diversity of the roots from which landscape architects draw their pride. ...

Pioneers expands the definition of garden. By illuminating the diversity of skills, knowledge, and expertise of the visionaries, Birnbaum and Karson display unlikely sources of garden and landscape aesthetics... Most exciting, and beyond the growing sense of pride I have for my profession as I read about each designer's development, are the visual benchmarks. Numerous plans, landscape photos, sections, postcards, and more allow me to see the significant growth, and the designer's foresight, in landscapes that still exist... Pioneers is a natural reference for landscape history classes and designers who recognize the value of knowing the roots of their vocation or avocation. I hope its value is recognized in design studios and in other academic programs whose professional ancestors are recognized as contributing to American landscapes... The reader is asked to become involved in the continuing discovery of history and to feel free to seek further information. I hope readers respond and, through discussions with friends and neighbors, expand the wealth of the bits and pieces of history that make up this truly unique expression of professional pride. (Landscape Architect & Specifier News 2000-09-01)

From article by Bob Scarfo, PhD

Pioneers is a natural reference for landscape history classes and designers who recognize the value of knowing the roots of their vocation or avocation. I hope its value is recognized in design studios and other academic programs. (Landscape Architecture 2000-09-01)

From the Inside Flap

Horticulture and history, commerce and culture, aesthetics and engineering--all these and more intersect at the decision points of landscape architecture.

Pioneers of American Landscape Design introduces you to the geniuses and more ordinary folk who brought about the key decisions that shaped American landscapes and public spacesand established the United States as a leader in land design, planning, and conservation.

Told in 160 revealing biographical essays illustrated with more than 450 plans and photographs (100 in full color), this book is the first to embrace the entire scope of this important, historic subject. Pioneers of American Landscape Design takes you from border to border and across time from pre-American Revolution to modern designs from the recent past. This broad-spectrum portrait expands conventional definitions of landscape architecture to include key figures not previously associated with the profession. At the same time, it focuses in to bring you previously unrecognized details of design and development.

In this book you'll meet American presidents who were just as interested in sitelines on their estates as they were in governmental administration. Youll work alongside the immortal Frederick Law Olmsted as he developed plans for an 843-acre park at the heart of the most bustling city in the world. And youll come to understand the creative lobbying initiatives of Genevieve Gillette which were instrumental in the establishment and protection of two national lakeshores and over 30 state parks in her beloved Michigan.

You'll watch the soft-spoken Charles Eliot, in only 38 years of life, quietly apply the force of his pen and his personal knack for persuasion to shape a system of parks that serves Boston to this day, and inspired the historic land trust movement in Great Britain.

Encompassing venues that include parks and gardens, city and campus plans, cemeteries and burial grounds, arboreta and botanic gardens, seashores and preserves, even playgrounds and amusement parks, as well as other unusual locales, this milestone reference is both resource and talisman for the growing movement to preserve historic landscapes.

As moving as it is fascinating, Pioneers of American Landscape Design explores both the art and practicalities of landscape design. It sees designers as both artists and deal-makers. It considers such design concepts as understanding the spirit of the place, as well as such pragmatic realities as the politics of park design.

Touching people at their core in a way that few other arts can, American landscape architecture at last finds its full telling in this book. A lively reading experience and an ongoing tale, Pioneers of American Landscape Design is both a paean to what is, and an eye-opening window on the future.

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Product Details

  • Series: Professional Architecture
  • Hardcover: 486 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional; 1 edition (May 23, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071344209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071344203
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #543,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By fibers in the NRV on June 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Birnbaum and Karson have produced a wonderful resource for anyone interested in the specific individual contributions towards American landscape architecture. The encyclopedic entries are well written AND include additional references. WELL DONE.
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By teresa on December 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Interesting book a guide for everybody who likes lanscape architecture. precedents for understanding the future of the profession next years in the states
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