Landscape Architecture as a profession, is relatively new. It was borne of our need as an evolving society, in the mid-19th century, to create environments for the urban public, which were both spiritually and emotionally uplifting.
It was during this time that Frederick Law Olmsted (the designer in charge of Central Park in New York City) coined the name and invented the profession of landscape architecture. Olmsted was a man of vision, but more importantly, he was a student of nature, always inspired and guided by what he saw in the vistas and beauty of wild America.
A guiding premise throughout his life, which influenced everything he wrote and designed, was that because our environment has great influence on us as human beings, it is essential that we take care in creating environments that will influence us in a positive way. His life experiences became the foundation for the education of landscape architects throughout the 20th century.
Olmsted saw himself as a steward of nature, afforded the opportunity and the responsibility of preserving the beauty of our natural environment wherever possible and integrating human needs with natural systems. (He was singularly responsible for the preservation and establishment of both Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks and the establishment of the national park system.)
As a result of his life and philosophy, individuals trained in the profession of landscape architecture are imbued with an underlying mindset. This mindset may not immediately be apparent, when the logistics of site planning and planting design are being discussed. But, if the individual loves what he or she does, and is excited about the prospect of designing your personal environment, and sees in your site, not problems, but opportunities, you can be sure, that the spirit of Frederick Law Olmsted lives within that individual.
A professional landscape architect should exhibit another quality, and it is, the free uninhibited dissemination of information. Judge Elbert Tuttle said it best when addressing the graduates at Emory commencement exercises in 1957.
“In a very real sense (his) professional service cannot be separate from his personal being, he has no goods to sell, no land to till; his only asset is himself . . . . (Therefore) Do not be a miser, hoarding your talents and abilities and knowledge, either among yourselves or in your dealings with your clients. . . Do not keep a watchful eye lest you slip, and give away a little bit of what you might have sold. Do not censor your thoughts to gain a wider audience. Like love, talent is useful only in its expenditure, and it is never exhausted . . . (and) never confuse the performance which is great, with the compensation, be it money, power or fame, which is trivial . . . ”
John Longhill is a Colorado registered landscape architect and Master Gardener. He would like to address concerns and interests you have about landscape design, and encourage you to email or write with your questions and interests.