The fine art and history of landscape architecture
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The romantic style, prominent in England during the 18th century, was natural , avoiding straight lines, using sundials, bowling greens, arbors, topiary, and open landscaping instead of formal designs.Skip to next paragraph
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In America, Thomas Jefferson, who designed the University of Virginia and his own home, Monticello, integrated natural landscaping with structural formalism. From the 1850s on, the growth was toward natural landscapes, with buildings blending harmoniously with their settings.
Frederick Law Olmsted, who created New York City's Central Park and Boston's ''green necklace'' park system, among others, used romantic landscaping in an urban setting.
In 1855, 840 acres in the center of Manhattan were set aside for Central Park. Calvert Vaux and Olmsted collaborated on the design, which included four east-west crossings between 59th and 106th Streets; a parade ground, playground, concert hall, ornamental fountain, flower garden, ice pond for winter skating, and innovative transverse crossings sunken below park level with bridges over them at intervals - an idea that even today frees the park from cross-town tangles.
Central Park is laid out in rustic woods, gardens, and ponds, crisscrossed by a network of paths, roads, and bridges.
The term ''landscape architecture'' was first used by the Olmsted-Vaux team when commissioned to design the park. Olmsted and Vaux wanted to call themselves ''landscape gardeners,'' but the word ''gardeners'' gave the impression of men who simply decorated a landscape. ''Landscape artists'' was closer, but they were concerned with what was appropriate.
Without total satisfaction, they called themselves ''landscape architects.''
Olmsted went on to design the Capitol grounds in Washington, as well, combining open areas and approaches with shape and vistas on the east side of the building. He added a marble terrace surrounding the north, west, and south sides of the building, thus creating a more formal approach from the lower part of the hill.
In 1896, young George Vanderbilt, great-grandson of Commodore Vanderbilt, hired architect R. M. Hunt and a thousand craftsmen to build the largest private home in the country. With 255 rooms, Biltmore is situated on a 2,000-acre tract near the Blue Ridge Parkway in western Virginia. The azalea garden alone comprises the largest and most complete collection in the world. Biltmore's gardens and grounds have gained international fame.
Nor has landscape architecture been overlooked in the design of highways. For example, the Blue Ridge Parkway, linking the Shenandoah region of Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, was a pioneer project and served as a proving ground for many concepts and principles that have been used on succeeding national parkways.
The old Natchez Trace, once a lost route to the modern world, runs along fields, lakes, hills, and wagon-rutted meadows where pioneers once trudged southwest.
Virtually no area is without the landscape architect's touch.
Courses in landscape architecture are offered by more than 40 major colleges and universities, and they can lead to both undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Indeed, landscape architects are far more than plantsmen.