Olmsted Parks

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Not long ago it occurred to me that I had always been drawn to urban parks and other “designed” green spaces.

I was intrigued by how these spaces are used by people for various purposes and how the spaces worked within the infrastructure that surrounds them. Many of these spaces are decades – or even centuries – old. Others are newly created. But in every case they are the creations of landscape designers. At least in part.

During one particular visit to Glacier National Park, I started to think about who created these parks and what methods they used. Soon I realized that there was a common thread that bound the visionaries of both types of parks.

Just as National Park builders created roadways, paths and hiking trails to guide us to the greatest vistas, the urban park designers used similar methods to guide their visitors.

Around this time, I read a biography of the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. And because here in Boston (and in nearby NYC) we have so many examples of his work, I decided I wanted to photograph his parks.

But I didn’t want to repeat the work of so many other photographers who have captured these spaces. I wanted to try a fresh approach: to distill those key images from the Olmsted Parks today that might have been most relevant to Olmsted himself if he were here now.

So as I approached the Olmsted project, one fueled by my huge passion for capturing landscapes, I found inspiration by asking myself, “What roads and pathways and vistas would he most want us to see?” And “Where would he have placed his camera?”

Of course, impossible to know over a hundred years later and with a hundred years of park evolution – but most certainly a fun and rewarding endeavor.

- Thomas Magno