Present Outlines and Effect Proposed

This week I’m going to be writing about how landscape architects, designers, and preservationists represent change in the landscape through constructed views. Since landscapes are dynamic collections of discrete, but interrelated parts, it is challenging to represent past landscapes and proposed changes to landscapes using static drawings. During our tour of the Olmsted National Historic Site (FRLA) on Wednesday, NPS Ranger Alan Banks showed us an Olmsted Brothers drawing of an existing landscape that had a flap that could be pulled up to show the same landscape with a new planting design and path running through it. This kind of before and after representation was something that the firm had been doing since Olmsted Senior’s time. If you look at Olmsted and Vaux’s 1858 proposal for Central Park, you’ll see that they included several boards that had photographs of the current conditions and hand drawn views done by Vaux showing the team’s design proposal. Each photograph is captioned “present outlines” and the accompanying drawing is captioned “effect proposed.”


Olmsted and Vaux proposal for central park; image source: NYC Department of Records

The Olmsted Firm was not the first to use this method of describing proposed changes to existing landscapes. Humphry Repton, a late-18th and early-19th century landscape and garden designer, is credited as being the first to employ this method. He developed the technique of creating a drawing of his client’s property and inserting a flap that could be moved to show his plans for that view. This representation is connected to the picturesque aesthetic appreciation of landscapes developed by William Gilpin that was very much in vogue among the elites of British Society during Repton’s lifetime.


Repton drawing from his Hatchlands Red Book; image source: The Morgan Library and Museum

This tradition of representing changes in the landscape through successive images of the same view is one that we are carrying forward here at the OCLP. As Jenna and I begin our work on a schematic design for the Green Hill portion of the FRLA, we need to communicate both how the landscape looked during its period of significance and how the character can be rehabilitated. On Wednesday we re-photographed historic views of the property. Jenna has been working on photo simulations to show how we can manage vegetation at Green Hill to restore the historic character and viewshed. The name may have changed (“effects proposed” versus “simulations”), but the method is the same.

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This is a project Jenna and I will be working on throughout the summer, so follow the blog for regular updates. For now I will sign off by encouraging you to #findyourolmstedpark by using this map developed by the National Association of Olmsted Parks.

Until next week,


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