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Landscape Urban Design. Annotated Bibliography Essay

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Updated: May 14th, 2022

Spir, Anne Whiston. “Constructing Nature: The Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted.” Uncommon Ground. Ed. William Cronon. New York City, NY: Uncommon Ground, 1996. 91-113. Print.

Spir offers an overview of Olmsted theories concerning architecture, landscape and the compromise between urban parks and urban areas. It is essential that Spir considers Olmsted’s theories as the ideas that once reinvented people’s perception of what urban architecture is. As Spir said, “The question that Olmsted posed in 1865 remains unresolved: how to admit all the visitors who wish to come without their destroying the very thing they value?” (Spir 94).

Choay, Francoise. “The Urban Park from Paxton to Olmsted.” Modern City: Planning in the Nineteenth Century. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co., 1970. 22-25. Print.

There is no secret that architecture develops at a very fast pace; influenced either by the current trends, or the recently made discoveries concerning building design or a certain material, architecture swiftly shapes its approach towards the recent changes. Taking the ideas of Paton and Olmsted as the basis for the comparison between what the urban park in the USA used to be and what it has transformed into, Choay provides a very peculiar research. According to the results of the study, the modern approach allows to intertwine the park system with the system of the city, which, on the one hand, helps keep the specifics of the park ecosystem intact, and, on the other hand, allows for better connection between the park and the urban area. As Choay put it herself, “With Olmsted, the urban park will be more thoroughly integrated into the city” (Choay 23).

Smithson., Robert. “Frederick Law Olmsted and the Dialectal Landscape.” Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979. 117-129. Print.

In his work, Smithson considers the phenomenon of dialectal landscape and evaluates the ideas of the person who first came up with the idea of a dialectal landscape, i.e., Frederick Law. Taking Central Park as an example to prove his point, Smithson explains the idea of a green city from the point of view of the then theorists and from the viewpoint of modern architects. Smithson, however, offers a rather critical look at Olmsted’s ideas; as a matter of fact, Smithson provides reasonable arguments against making a thoughtless connection between nature and architecture: “his does not mean that one is helpless before nature, but rather that nature’s conditions are unexpected” (Smithson 119). Therefore, Smithson provides a careful assessment of Olmsted’s suggestion to create “green cities” and cones to the conclusion that cities must not harm nature, yet it would also be wrong to let nature rule cities.

Somol, Robert E. “All Systems, Go!: The Terminal Nature of Contemporary Urbanism.” Julia Czerniak (Ed.) Case: Downsview Part Toronto. New York, NY: Prestel, 2002. 126-138. Print.

Considering pros and cons of the contemporary urbanism and its typical features, Somol mentions that several types of urbanism can be distinguished in the present-day world. Namely, the author mentions that there are two key tendencies, i.e., keeping up with the technological progress and providing a policy of balanced sustainability between being a “green city” and a technological and architectural breakthrough. However, Somol explains that there are considerable obstacles on the way of the city’s authorities to transform the place from a traditional city into a city with a more sustainability-oriented policy:

If Toronto imagines itself as a “green city,” as stated in the competition brief, DMA at once provides the statistics that undermine this assertion (namely that Toronto spends the least of major North American cities on park operations) while generating the logo that might nonetheless allow this virtual desire to be actualized with the least possible means.

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