Olmsted: Bicentennial Perspectives
October 14–15, 2022 Harvard University GSD/Arnold Arboretum
The Harvard University Graduate School of Design, in partnership with the Arnold
Arboretum, will host a two-day academic conference as part of the national Olmsted 200
celebration. While Olmsted was central to the conceptual formation of the degree
program in landscape architecture at Harvard University and the design of the Arnold
Arboretum, the interpretive ambitions of the conference are anything but parochial.
“A Great American.” Under that unambiguous heading, in 1972 the Olmsted
Sesquicentennial Committee elaborated its “simple” reasons for celebrating the living
legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted: “to dedicate ourselves to the idea of human survival and
to identify this dedication with America’s first and greatest environmentalist.”
Fifty years later into our ongoing act of survival, it is time again to reconsider the image of
this representative American. America has changed, and so too have its notions of
greatness, of identity, and certainly our understanding of the varied historical sources of
environmentalism. To what ideas do we remain dedicated in the year of Olmsted’s
bicentennial? The story of Olmsted is perhaps no longer so simple, yet more relevant than
Not only as a landscape architect and designer of parks, but also and especially as a
landscape architect and designer of parks, and suburbs, and public institutions, indeed the
grounds of the United States Capitol, Olmsted was and remains a crucial figure in the
definition of democratic space. Democracy needs its defenders, some of the most able of
whom are its most severe but caring critics and friends.
The plural “perspectives” of the conference title is meant to invite diverse points of view.
We welcome papers that draw attention to the several selves and careers of this “great
American” at a time when greatness is far from an unambiguous good.
Graduate School of Design
48 Quincy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
We invite scholarly papers on any subject appropriate to Olmsted studies, including but
not limited to those that address:
Olmsted as farmer Olmsted as writer, journalist, and reformer
Olmsted and the Sanitary Commission Olmsted and The Cotton Kingdom
Olmsted in California Olmsted on Staten Island
Olmsted and the Columbian Exposition Olmsted at Biltmore
Olmsted on cities and suburbs Olmsted shaper of institutions
Olmsted and the National Capitol Olmsted abroad
and those collective selves, the Olmsted Office in its various iterations and The Frederic
Law Olmsted Papers.
Beyond Olmsted the “man,” itself an increasingly unstable category, there is the work of
design and the built realization of public and private places, of democratic parklands and
urban reservations, of suburban subdivisions, of asylums and a world’s exposition. Papers
are invited on all aspects of the history, significance, and ongoing inhabited reality of the
sites. We especially seek papers that examine Olmsted in an international perspective.
Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words by Jan 15, 2022.
Abstracts should include paper title, contact information (name, title, organization,
phone, email), and a 150-word biography of the author.
Email notification of accepted presentations will be sent by March 1, 2022.
Presentations are 30 minutes, including questions. Presenters will submit their papers by
October 1, 2022.
Submit abstracts and/or any questions to Edward Eigen: email@example.com