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Orchestration of Movement


June 08, 2021

From the GCA Collection at the Archives of American Gardens

Many gardens included in The Garden Club of America Collection at the Archives of American Gardens hold a proud distinction: they embody design principles developed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903). In addition to establishing a firm that had a hand in the design of more than 6,000 landscapes and gardens for over a century, Olmsted published influential theories about landscape design that transformed how people organized and maintained the outdoor space around them. Olmsted scholars have distilled Olmsted’s ideas down to a list of six design principles. 

Here is Principle Three:

Olmsted felt the landscape should subtly direct how people moved through it. For instance, in his design of Burrwood in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, Olmsted cleared trees and added a bench at the highest point of a semi-circular path. The landscape subtly influenced where visitors naturally chose to stop and admire the view of the harbor below.

In addition, Olmsted wanted green spaces to offer a separation of ways to increase the “efficiency and amenity of movement.” He recommended separating parks (large public green areas) from parkways (landscaped thoroughfares), as in Audubon Park in New Orleans. Separation ensured that those who wanted to rest did not block those who wanted to move about the landscape.

Mainly, Olmsted hoped that separation in landscaping would prevent the collision of “different kinds of traffic.” People and communities have implemented Olmsted’s idea on scales large and small. For instance, the owners of Pompey’s Garden in Beverly, Massachusetts placed a bench out of the path of pedestrians. At the Schuylkill River Park Community Garden in Philadelphia, trees separate the neighborhood space from nearby railroad tracks.

Olmsted helped people realize that landscapes should not only be visually attractive but also ‘orchestrate’ safe and comfortable passage for all visitors.

“Design Principles,”, National Association for Olmsted Parks. principles/design-principles


Images from The Garden Club of America Collection at the Archives of American Gardens. By Alanna Natanson, GCA Garden History & Design Intern at AAG. June 2020.


NY072 Burrwood, Cold Spring Harbor, NY. Circa 1920-1935.

LA008 Audubon Park and Zoological Garden, New Orleans, LA. 1985.

MA017 Pompey's Garden, Beverly, MA. Circa 1920-1935.

PA647 Schuylkill River Park Community Garden, Philadelphia, PA. 2006. Sarah D. Price, photographer



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