Many consider one of the greatest champions in urban beauty to be Frederick Law Olmsted. My career in parking has sent me to several of Olmsted’s beautiful parks around the country, including Central Park (New York City); Forest Park (Springfield, Mass.); and Cherokee Park, Iroquois Park, and Shawnee Park (Louisville, Ky).
Visiting the temporary parks across downtown Louisville on Park(ing) Day 2012, I stumbled upon a space sponsored by the Olmsted Parks Conservancy. I had a great conversation with their staff about Olmsted’s pioneering work in Louisville. Consider, for example, the creation of parkways. Olmstead and architect Calvert Vaux (co-designer of Central Park) coined the term “parkway” to describe pleasure roads lined with trees and segregated for pedestrians, cyclists, and horse carriages. Louisville’s parkway system stretches 26 miles and connects the many parks in the Olmsted Park System.
Olmsted helped establish the notion that open spaces are for everyone, not just the elite. Beginning as a surveyor, Olmsted went on to help design beautiful places such as Central Park in New York City, the Niagara Reservation in Niagara Falls, and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., all of which earned him the title Father of American Landscape Architecture. Olmsted taught the world to respect the “genius of place.” He wanted his designs to stay true to the atmosphere and character of their natural surroundings.
How does this relate to parking? Olmsted believed nature could be integrated into urban environments for the benefits of everyone. Too often, city officials and parking professionals lose sight of this concept, and that leads to ugly examples of paving paradise to put up a parking lot.
How can parking professionals become more like Olmsted? What can we incorporate into our urban parking environments that can benefit everyone, not just those parking a car? Comment below.