A Genius for Place: American Landscapes of the Country Place Era

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Univ of Massachusetts Press, 2007 - Architecture - 428 pages
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In this lavishly illustrated volume, Robin Karson traces the development of a distinctly American style of landscape design through an analysis of seven country places created by some of the nation's most talented landscape practitioners.
In the mid-nineteenth century Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of New York's Central Park, developed an approach to landscape design based on the principles of the English Picturesque which also emphasized a specifically American experience of nature and scenery. After Olmsted's retirement in 1897, these precepts continued to ground a new generation of American landscape architects through the next four decades, a period known as the "country place era," a time of rapid economic, social, and cultural change.
In the early twentieth century, new fortunes made it possible for wealthy Americans to commission country estates as a means of aggrandizing social status. These private havens also offered their owners respite from crowded cities and a way to preserve and celebrate places of distinctive landscape beauty. The commissions provided burgeoning numbers of landscape architects with opportunities to experiment with stylistic influences derived from Beaux-Arts, Arts and Crafts, and even Asian principles.
The chapters in this book trace a progression in the period from the naturalistic wild gardens of Warren Manning to the mysterious "Prairie style" landscapes of Jens Jensen to the proto-modernist gardens of Fletcher Steele. Other practitioners cov ered are Charles Platt, Ellen Biddle Shipman, Beatrix Farrand, Marian Coffin, and Lockwood de Forest Jr. The projects profiled follow a broad geographic arc, from Stockbridge, Massachusetts, to Santa Barbara, California. All seven landscapes are now open to visitors.
Analyzing these designs in context with one another and against the backdrop of the professional and cultural currents that shaped larger projects - such as parks, campuses, and planned communities - Karson creates a rich and comprehensive picture of the artistic achievements of the period. Striking black-and-white images by landscape photographer Carol Betsch illuminate the transporting spirit of these country places today, while hundreds of drawings, plans, and historical photographs bring the past to life.
 

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Contents

PROLOGUE
3
AN AMERICAN STYLE 19001919
21
WARREN H MANNING 18601938
25
CHARLES A PLATT 18611933
47
GWINN Cleveland Ohio
61
STAN HYWET HALL Akron Ohio
89
ELLEN SHIPMAN 18691950
117
INNOVATION AND WILDNESS 19201929
129
EDSEL AND ELEANOR FORD HOUSE Grosse Pointe Shores Michigan
239
DREAMS AND ABSTRACTIONS 19291939
265
LOCKWOOD DE FOREST JR 18961949
269
VAL VERDE DIAS FELICITAS Santa Barbara California
285
FLETCHER STEELE 18851971
309
NAUMKEAG Stockbridge Massachusetts
327
AFTERWORD
355
NOTES
359

BEATRIX FARRAND 18721959
133
DUMBARTON OAKS Washington DC
149
MARIAN CRUGER COFFIN 18761957
181
WINTERTHUR Winterthur Delaware
195
JENS JENSEN 18601951
223
BIBLIOGRAPHY
393
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
403
INDEX
407
ILLUSTRATION SOURCES
429
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Page 5 - Consult the genius of the place in all ; That tells the waters or to rise or fall ; Or helps th' ambitious hill the heavens to scale, Or scoops in circling theatres the vale, Calls in the country, catches opening glades, Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades ; Now breaks, or now directs, th' intending lines ; Paints as you plant, and as you work designs.
Page 11 - We want a ground to which people may easily go after their day's work is done, and where they may stroll for an hour, seeing, hearing, and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets, where they shall, in effect, find the city put far away from them.
Page 10 - There we were right in the midst of it ! The country — and such a country ! — green, dripping, glistening, gorgeous ! We stood dumb-stricken by its loveliness, as, from the bleak April and bare boughs we had left at home, broke upon us that English May — sunny, leafy, blooming May — in an English lane; with hedges, English hedges, hawthorn hedges, all in blossom ; homely old farm-houses, quaint stables, and haystacks; the old church spire over the distant trees; the mild sun beaming through...
Page 4 - That essence refuses to be recorded in propositions, but when man has worshipped him intellectually, the noblest ministry of nature is to stand as the apparition of God. It is the organ through which the universal spirit speaks to the individual, and strives to lead back the individual to it.
Page xi - The sacredness to us of the earth is intrinsic and inherent. It lies in our necessary relationship and in the duty imposed upon us to have dominion, and to exercise ourselves even against our own interests.
Page 3 - ... EXPRESSION, derived from a refined perception of the sentiment of nature: THE RECOGNITION OF ART, founded on the immutability of the true, as well as the beautiful : AND THE PRODUCTION OF UNITY, HARMONY, AND VARIETY, in order to render complete, and continuous, our enjoyment of any artistical work. Neither the professional Landscape Gardener, nor the amateur, can hope for much success in realizing the nobler effects of the art, unless he first make himself master of the natural character, or...

About the author (2007)

Robin Karson serves as executive director of the Library of American Landscape History.

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