2022 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, the master designer of public parks and a founder of the field of landscape architecture. Historian and filmmaker Laurence Cotton (originator of and consulting producer to the PBS special “Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America”) will do a deep dive into the remarkable life and career of Renaissance-man Olmsted–writer, philosopher, social reformer, advocate for the preservation of natural scenery, and creator of some of the most beautiful public and private parks and gardens in North America. Laurence will talk about the design traditions, aesthetics, and philosophies that influenced Olmsted’s thought—including English garden design, the Hudson River School, and Transcendentalism. He will emphasize Olmsted’s remarkable career as a writer and the worldwide influence of his publications on the antebellum South and the institution of slavery. If time allows, Laurence will end his talk with a fast-paced visual tour of Olmsted landscapes in the Midwest and Great Lakes States.

University affiliates will then present Olmsted’s wide-reaching legacy in a more local perspective, focusing on the historic designs of campus landscaping still visible today, recent collaborative student/faculty research efforts to digitize original maps, the ongoing tree inventory initiative, and more! Speakers may include University Landscape Architect Mia Williams, research associate and forester Hannah Gregory, and University Historian Jim Capshew.

The event will conclude with a nearby ceremonial tree planting. (A larger-scale tree planting initiative will take place in a separate event in the afternoon.)

More about the guest speaker, writer, historian, and filmmaker Laurence Cotton:

As a landscape historian, Laurence Cotton is active with the Olmsted Network. As biographer of Frederick Law Olmsted, Mr. Cotton has taken it upon himself to regularly travel across N. America, presenting his PBS film Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America and delivering a popular talk about the Olmsted legacy–father, two sons and Olmsted Bros. landscape architecture firm–across North America. In addition to his filmmaking and his public speaking, Laurence Cotton also serves as an historical lecturer on board small ship cruise vessels that ply the rivers and coastlines of N. America.