Monday, December 11, 2006

Landscape Architecture & Frederick Law Olmsted

Did Toronto miss out???

The man who started it all... Frederick Law Olmsted was the founder of the Landscape Architecture profession.

His creativity combined with his design principles had bridged the gap between the engineered environment of a city-scape and Nature itself. He designed as if Nature was there first and the man-made landscape came after.

The photo on the left is a look at Olmsted's Summit Chalet in Mount Royal (Built in 1931... 28 years after his passing.)

Olmsted's most famous work can be seen in New York City's Central Park , which is a green oasis built amongst the structured city. He has done many other projects scattered around the U.S. and a few projects here in Canada: Most popular; Mount Royal in Montreal, Quebec and Montebello Park in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Now this may come as a shock to some Torontonians...

Olmsted at one time was being asked to come to our grand old city and work his magic!!! Where you ask??? The Toronto Islands! Yes, since way back in the late 1800's, there existed the debate about what to do with the stretch of sandy deposits on our waterfront.

The Island system was formed from the Scarborough bluffs eroding away for many years and depositing it's sand into Lake Ontario. The Lake currents along with easterly moving storms carried the sand westward (pre-Tommy Thompson Park construction) where it met the Don River Wetlands (The wetlands no longer exist today due to city development). The sand deposited to form the Island's present day location.

In the late 1800's, the Toronto city council was divided on bringing Olmsted here to beautify our Lakeshore. The end decision was that Toronto did not need to bring in an "American Planner" to make a Canadian park! Instead they decided to leave it up to the city planners of the time! Yet another good decision made by our local government....if you live in Toronto, you would see on occasion, the Island still gets heavily debated over what to do with some of it's areas.

Had Olmsted been hired for his services as a Landscape Architect by the city all those years ago, the Toronto Island would have been forever treated as an historic treasure and would have added even more value to the waterfront.


Anonymous said...

It seems to be Toronto's problem. Indecision and a lack of leadership. Nice to know it has always been that way.

Great Article Paul--


Paul said...

Thanks Lawrence,

Not a well know fact in Toronto's city history...or should I say not very well advertised...I discovered that fact years ago when I was doing research on the Island's history during my Thesis study for the Landscape Architecture Degree. I imagine people would be coming to Toronto just to see Olmsted's work had it happened.

The folks that still live on Ward's Island have about 80 something years before their lease of land title from the city is up....I probably won't be around to see what happens then...but it will surely be a hot debate!