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The Olmsted firm in Canada: a correction of the record

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Abstract:

This paper refines the Canadian portion of the definitive Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm, 1857–1950 . This correction then informs a consideration of this American firm's influence on Canadian planning and landscape architecture. The paper also offers a broader perspective on the transfer of ideas during the early days of the parks movement, planned community expansion, and town planning. It is already well known that Olmsted Sr was one of the leading advocates for urban change throughout North America. To this social consciousness, the Olmsted sons and their associates, who did most of the firm's work in Canada, added a good measure of business acumen. Their Canadian practice was sustained by public projects, most notably in town planning and suburban development, and numerous private residential commissions. The Olmsteds played a key role during the formative period of the Canadian planning which saw the creation of the Commission of Conservation in 1909. As well as the direct influence they exerted in their 95 projects in Canada, and their persuasive writings and public addresses, they counselled many cities to adopt formalized planning processes and agencies. Their former employees, and one could argue, ‘disciples', also played leading roles in establishing town planning and landscape architecture in Canada. Three in particular, Frederick Todd, Rickson Outhet and Gordon Culham, established thriving Canadian practices. Overall, it is arguable whether the Olmsteds were the most influential foreign landscape design and planning professionals, given the contributions in particular of the British planner Thomas Adams. However, they were the most prolific foreign practitioners in terms of the number of projects and the legacy they passed on to the country's founding town planners and landscape architects.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02665430600731203

Affiliations: School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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