Olmsted 200 celebrates the legacy of the “Father of Landscape Architecture” and looks to an equitable and sustainable future


The Olmsted Legacy in Connecticut: Building Sustainable Cities Symposium honored the legacy of the “father of landscape architecture” and Hartford native, Frederick Law Olmsted.

Olmsted, born in Hartford in 1822, was a pioneer in the field of landscape architecture and carried out important projects such as Central Park in New York, the Emerald Necklace in Boston and parks in the United States and in Canada.

The symposium, co-organized by the assistant professor of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources Sohyun Park and Phil Birge-Liberman of the Department of Urban and Community Studies, focused on three main areas of sustainability for park design: public, ecological, and economic health.

“I want people to understand the big things [Olmsted] did,” says Park, who is a faculty member in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. “But more importantly, it is crucial for us to know how to manage and create new parks.”

Parks and other public green spaces have a proven importance for the mental and physical well-being of people.

“People now understand how important public parks are, especially during the pandemic,” Park says.

Parks can also provide habitat for native plants and animals and boost the local economy.

The closing keynote, delivered by Alessandro Rigolon, Assistant Professor of Urban and Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah, addressed the importance of inclusivity and equity in parks. Such considerations can help reduce disparities in who uses and feels safe in parks, which tend to be underused by people of color.

The symposium was held at the Hartford Club on April 22. Presenters included professors of urban and community studies, landscape architecture, geography, medicine, applied science, history, UConn, UConn Health, George Washington University, from Trinity College and the University of Utah; a community planner from the National Park Service, the New Haven City Plan Director, and members of other Connecticut organizations focused on parks, preservation, and planning.

Participants included park professionals, community volunteers, landscape architects, teachers, historians and policy makers.

“I hope this opportunity can bring forth new initiatives where we can work with local communities,” Park says.

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The symposium was co-sponsored by the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Urban and Community Studies Program, Department of Geography and Department of History and Sustainable Global Cities Initiative (SGCI), and it was supported by the National Association of Olmsted Parks and the Connecticut Chapter of American Society of Landscape Architects.


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