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Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.: A Vision for the American West Agenda

Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.: A Vision for the American West

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March 27–28, 2014, Li Ka Shing Center, Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Please note that this symposium takes place at 291 Campus Drive, Palo Alto, CA 94305, on the campus of Stanford University.

Thursday, March 27

Event MC: David Sloane, professor, Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California    

7:30–8:30 am
Registration and Networking
Coffee, tea, juice, and light refreshments provided.

8:30–8:45 am   
Welcome and Opening Remarks

  • Christopher Bayley, chair, National Association for Olmsted Parks
  • Whayne Quin, chair, National Building Museum
  • Robert Doyle, general manager, East Bay Regional Park District; NAOP Trustee

8:45–9:15 am  
Opening Keynote: Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.- A Vision for the American West
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. was instrumental in the American West in the conservation and management of land, water and scenic resources.  One of his greatest accomplishments was his 1928 survey guiding the acquisition of land for California’s state park system. The 1930 Olmsted-Hall Report on Proposed Park Reservations for East Bay Cities is a compelling statement for parks in the San Francisco Bay region. And, the 1930 Olmsted-Bartholomew Plan for the Los Angeles Region proposed a 160,000-acre network of parkland, showing Olmsted’s extraordinary foresight and grasp of broad social and environmental problems. From 19281956, Olmsted served on Yosemite's advisory board and in 1944 he devised a master plan to save California's coastal redwoods. Farther east, he planned a 40,000-acre mountain park system around metropolitan Denver beginning in 1912, and consulted on the 1940 survey for the Colorado River to improve use of the water resources of the region.

  • William Deverell, director, Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West 

9:15–10:45 am 
Defining the Purpose of Parks: Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and the National Park System - Panel session
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. had a long and profound influence on the National Park Service (NPS). He drafted the core of the agency’s 1916 founding legislation. His influence on the theory and management of the NPS continued for decades and provided an important link to earlier chapters in American park history in which his father had been so prominent. What is the significance of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.’s legacy in the national park system? What bearing does that legacy have for thinking about how the national park system will adapt to the environmental and demographic changes of the 21st century? This panel will address the meanings and purposes of parks as described by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., and consider their relevance, adaptability, and usefulness for the changing uses, meanings, and publics of the parks today and in the future. 

  • Ethan Carr, PhD, FASLA, associate professor of landscape architecture, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, moderator
  • Milton Chen, senior fellow and executive director emeritus, The George Lucas Educational Foundation 
  • Shaun Eyring, chief, Division of Resource Planning Northeast Region, National Park Service.
  • Lucas St. Clair, president of the board, Preserving Maine’s Wilderness Landscapes

10:45–11 am  

11 am12:30 pm 
The California State Parks System – Panel Session
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. consulted on the conservation of parks and wilderness areas across the American West. One of his greatest accomplishments was the 1928 California state park survey, guiding the acquisition of land and establishing a new standard for planning a diverse park and recreation system over a large and geographically varied area. The session will address today’s state parks crisis; views and value of state parks in contemporary society; new models for state parks funding and administration; and solutions within Olmsted’s work that can help address issues today.

  • Elizabeth Goldstein, president, California State Parks Foundation, moderator
  • Sam Hodder, president and CEO, Save the Redwoods League
  • Major General Anthony L. Jackson, USMC (Ret), director, California State Parks
  • Tjiska Van Wyk, executive director, Jack London State Historic Park

12:301:30 pm   

1:302 pm
Keynote: Parks and Nature in the Metropolitan West
Parks, open spaces, and other forms of nature are very unevenly distributed in the metropolitan West. The quantity, quality, and accessibility of parks and open spaces vary tremendously from city to city and from neighborhood to neighborhood. What explains this variation? Can the history of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and the Olmsted firm help us understand the state of nature in our cities today and shape parks and open spaces for the future? The City Nature research project at Stanford and UCLA uses data visualization, mapping, and text mining to explore the past, present, and future of parks and nature in cities. The City Nature project has set the stage for important research and scholarship in urban and environmental planning, conservation science, geography, urban and environmental history, and analysis of the linguistic and literary patterns in a variety of sources through which people and communities express and enact their views of nature in the city. In collaboration with Stamen Design, City Nature also creates tools for people to engage with the parks and open spaces they use and love through social media, and for parks managers and policymakers to see and hear the human stories that pour out of nature every day.

  • Jon Christensen, adjunct assistant professor, resident journalist, and senior researcher, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA

22:20 pm 
Vignette: Regionalism in California: Frederick Law Olmsted’s Planning and Design in Palos Verdes Estates
Located in South Los Angeles County, Palos Verdes Estates was the large new town designed in the 1920s. Conceived as a totally planned community, it became the most extensive suburban community commission the Olmsted Brothers firm ever undertook with an initial design of 16,000 acres. In a regional approach to design, Palos Verdes was the largest un-irrigated development in the country at the time, fulfilling a firm principal of water-reducing design as an appropriate response to the Southern California climate. Palos Verdes Estates was also an unusually personal design for principals Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and Fred Dawson. During the new town’s design development, a requirement by the developer was that the principals would live on site. Therefore, not only were the Olmsted Brothers principals designing the project, they were community members as well. Through this residence, the firm was able to not only influence the community’s taste and control the long-term development of the city, but also combine their professional and personal values into the design.

  • Christine Edstrom O’Hara, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, California Polytechnic State University

2:20–3:50 pm  
Metropolitan Planning in the American West – Panel Session
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. was a pivotal figure in creating the American planning profession. His practice in the West represents a significant expansion from landscape architecture to metropolitan, regional and environmental planning. After noting FLO Jr.’s important work in Colorado, the session will focus on metropolitan planning in California. The Los Angeles Regional Plan and East Bay Regional Park System will be addressed with specific attention to how plans are or are not implemented and the value of environmental conservation to human health and welfare. Much can be learned from FLO Jr.’s metropolitan-scale work in the American West that is relevant to contemporary planning practice.

  • Bill Deverell, director, Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West
  • Robert Doyle, general manager, East Bay Regional Park District
  • Greg Hise, professor, Department of History, University of Nevada Las Vegas
  • Frederick Steiner, dean, School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin, moderator

3:50–4:05 pm   

4:05–5:20 pm  
Closing Panel
Leading voices from the field reflect on the day’s conversations and future directions for policy and practice.

  • Carolyn Finney, assistant professor, UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources, National Park Service Advisory Board
  • Christopher Hawthorne, architecture critic, The Los Angeles Times, moderator
  • Michael Mantell, attorney, Resources Law Group
  • William Rogers, president and CEO, The Trust for Public Land

5:20–5:30 pm   
Closing Remarks

  • Sarah Earley, Vice Chair, National Association for Olmsted Parks

Friday, March 28

Join us for one of two guided tours on the history, planning, and design of California landscapes planned by the Olmsted firm:

8:30 am–5 pm
A Vision Achieved:  Celebrating 80 Years of the East Bay Regional Park District
8.5 LA CES (ASLA); 8.5 LU HSW (AIA); 8.5 CM (AICP)

8:30 am–3 pm
The Stanford University Campus – Planning and Design
6.5 LA CES (ASLA); 6.5 LU HSW (AIA); 6.5 CM (AICP)