Architects of an American landscape Henry Hobson Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the reimagining of America's public and private spaces

Hugh Howard, 1952-

Book - 2022

"As the nation recovered from a cataclysmic war, two titans of design profoundly influenced how Americans came to interact with the built and natural world around them through their pioneering work in architecture and landscape design. Frederick Law Olmsted is widely revered as America's first and finest parkmaker and environmentalist, the force behind Manhattan's Central Park, Brooklyn's Prospect Park, Biltmore's parkland in Asheville, dozens of parks across the country..., and the preservation of Yosemite and Niagara Falls. Yet his close friend and sometime collaborator, Henry Hobson Richardson, has been almost entirely forgotten today, despite his outsized influence on American architecture-from Boston's iconic Trinity Church to Chicago's Marshall Field Wholesale Store to the Shingle Style and the wildly popular "open plan" he conceived for family homes. Individually they created much-beloved buildings and public spaces. Together they married natural landscapes with built structures in train stations and public libraries that helped drive the shift in American life from congested cities to developing suburbs across the country. The small, reserved Olmsted and the passionate, Falstaffian Richardson could not have been more different in character, but their sensibilities were closely aligned. In chronicling their intersecting lives and work in the context of the nation's post-war renewal, Hugh Howard reveals how these two men created original all-American idioms in architecture and landscape that influence how we enjoy our public and private spaces to this day"--

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Subjects
Genres
Biographies
Published
New York : Atlantic Monthly Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic 2022.
Edition
First edition. First Grove Atlantic hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
x, 406 pages : illustrations, plans ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780802159236
0802159230
Main Author
Hugh Howard, 1952- (author)
Other Authors
H. H. (Henry Hobson) Richardson, 1838-1886 (-), Frederick Law Olmsted, 1822-1903
  • Prologue: Farewell, friend
  • An impractical man finds his vocation
  • Childhood days in Louisiana
  • Inventing the Central Park
  • Man without a country
  • California days
  • New neighbors in New York
  • Mr. Dorsheimer, Buffalo benefactor
  • The falls at Niagara
  • Richardson designs a duomo
  • Building Trinity Church
  • Boston days
  • Amestown
  • The machine in the garden
  • Of shingle and stone
  • City of conversation
  • Chicago style
  • The Richardson memorial
  • Sunset at Biltmore
  • Legacies.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Architect Henry Hobson Richardson and landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted were great friends and collaborators. Both men, notes Howard, "left an indelible imprint on buildings and parks, both public and private." Even so, they never forged a professional partnership; instead, their "bond was akin to a brotherhood." Howard offers a double biography, as he did in Architecture's Odd Couple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson (2016), noting the two men's opposite temperaments; Olmsted was somber, Richardson exuberant. Howard chronicles their lives and careers, noting their best-known works. Chapters are devoted, for example, to Olmsted and his codesigner Calvert Vaux's design for Central Park in New York City and Richardson's Romanesque-style Trinity Church in Boston. Olmsted's other important works include Chicago's Jackson Park and the planned suburban community of Riverside. Richardson also designed several iconic Chicago buildings, including the convention-defying Glessner House, which looked like a fortress, and his open plan for family homes. A well-researched dual biography, rich in historical context, presenting two gifted architects who as robust allies utterly transformed the look of American buildings and landscapes. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Howard, whose Architecture's Odd Couple focused on Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson, here pairs another design team: Frederick Law Olmsted, the first and arguably best U.S. landscape designer, whose accomplishments ranged from Manhattan's Central Park to the preservation of Yosemite National Park, and the first leading U.S. architect, Henry Hobson Richardson. The two were friends, and though Richardson isn't as well-known now, we have him to thank for Boston's stunning Trinity Church and the open plan for family homes. Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Historian Howard (Architecture's Odd Couple) provides a solid dual biography of pioneering landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1882–1903) and his influential friend, neighbor, and frequent collaborator, building architect Henry Hobson Richardson (1838–1886). Howard believes that the pair's joint efforts, including the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, were notable for "unifying buildings and grounds" in a manner that influenced Frank Lloyd Wright's "organic architecture" and other modern trends. Though Howard briskly and lucidly chronicles both men's professional and private lives, and notes the important role they played in each other's careers (Olmsted coordinated the publication of Richardson's biography—"the first book devoted to an American architect"—after his death from complications of Bright's disease), there are few specifics about the manner in which they collaborated or how they actively influenced one another's approaches. Both men's greatest achievements—Central Park and the Vanderbilt family's Biltmore estate for Olmsted; Boston's Trinity Church and Chicago's Marshall Fields wholesale store for Richardson—were done without the other's involvement. Still, Howard succeeds in shining a spotlight on the lesser-known Richardson and documenting Olmsted's innovations as "a democratic designer of places that belonged to everyone." Architecture buffs will be engrossed. (Jan.) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"A dual portrait of America's first great architect, Henry Hobson Richardson, and her finest landscape designer, Frederick Law Olmsted--and their immense impact on America"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A dual portrait of America’s first great architect, Henry Hobson Richardson, and her finest landscape designer, Frederick Law Olmsted—and their immense impact on AmericaAs the nation recovered from a cataclysmic war, two titans of design profoundly influenced how Americans came to interact with the built and natural world around them through their pioneering work in architecture and landscape design.Frederick Law Olmsted is widely revered as America’s first and finest parkmaker and environmentalist, the force behind Manhattan’s Central Park, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, Biltmore’s parkland in Asheville, dozens of parks across the country, and the preservation of Yosemite and Niagara Falls. Yet his close friend and sometime collaborator, Henry Hobson Richardson, has been almost entirely forgotten today, despite his outsized influence on American architecture—from Boston’s iconic Trinity Church to Chicago’s Marshall Field Wholesale Store to the Shingle Style and the wildly popular “open plan” he conceived for family homes. Individually they created much-beloved buildings and public spaces. Together they married natural landscapes with built structures in train stations and public libraries that helped drive the shift in American life from congested cities to developing suburbs across the country.The small, reserved Olmsted and the passionate, Falstaffian Richardson could not have been more different in character, but their sensibilities were closely aligned. In chronicling their intersecting lives and work in the context of the nation’s post-war renewal, Hugh Howard reveals how these two men created original all-American idioms in architecture and landscape that influence how we enjoy our public and private spaces to this day.