Da Capo Press, $30.00, 496 pages
He designed Central Park and was the creative force behind the Worlds Fair in Chicago. He put his stamp on the campus of Stanford University. Yet many people do not know his name. His name was Frederick Law Olmsted and he helped give birth to a field called landscape architecture.
Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted takes a close look at this little-known architect. who had little formal training or education. He used his life experiences and growing up in Connecticut to design iconic places to American life. A park was a place to relax and to get away from the city, and Olmsted designed the parks that have become fixtures. He did not live an easy life, and along with his great works came great anxiety and tragedy.
This is a well written and easy to follow biography. Justin Martin does an excellent job helping to bring this figure to life, but he does fall into some traps. Focusing too much on his subject and also a few anachronisms, his total focus on Olmsted at times leaves out the rest of his family, except for a few tragic cases. Like most biographers he focuses too narrowly on his subject at times, but it does not distract from the rest of the work.
Reviewed by Kevin Winter