Frederick Law Olmsted, god of 19th century landscape architecture, is coming to the small screen. Olmsted, who shaped some of the earliest park systems in the country, will be the subject of a new documentary premiering on PBS next month.
Olmsted was a founder of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and he transformed parks, parkways, and college campuses across the country. Perhaps most famous for Central Park, he was also responsible for the park system in Buffalo, New York, and the landscape around the U.S. Capitol Building. He designed the midway for Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (a story made infamous in Erik Larson’s book The Devil in the White City) as well as campuses for Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. He made significant inroads in the early conservation movement in the U.S., campaigning to preserve the natural beauty of Yosemite, Niagara Falls, and the Adirondack region.
“Most folks, when they’re walking through the park, they go, ‘Wow, this is a really pretty landscape,'” as one expert in the trailer for Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America explains. “They have no idea that every nook, every cranny of these landscapes were laid out intentionally.”