The Best Planned City in the World
Olmsted, Vaux, and the Buffalo Park System
Francis R. Kowsky
Library of American Landscape History
|ISBN: 978-1-952620-27-0||272 pages | 8.5 x 10 inches|
|$30.00 | Paper||Published: 01/20/2018|
|226 color and b&w photos and drawings|
A volume in the series Designing the American Park
Beginning in 1868, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux created a series of parks and parkways for Buffalo, New York, that drew national and international attention. The improvements carefully augmented the city’s original plan with urban design features inspired by Second Empire Paris, including the first system of “parkways” to grace an American city. Displaying the plan at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Olmsted declared Buffalo “the best planned city, as to its streets, public places, and grounds, in the United States, if not in the world.”
Olmsted and Vaux dissolved their historic partnership in 1872, but Olmsted continued his association with the Queen City of the Lakes, designing additional parks and laying out important sites within the growing metropolis. When Niagara Falls was threatened by industrial development, he led a campaign to protect the site, and in 1885, succeeded in persuading New York to create the Niagara Reservation, the present Niagara Falls State Park. Two years later, Olmsted and Vaux teamed up again, this time to create a plan for the area around the Falls, a project the two grand masters regarded as “the most difficult problem in landscape architecture to do justice to.”
In his book, Francis R. Kowksy illuminates this remarkable constellation of projects. Utilizing original plans, drawings, photographs, and copious numbers of reports and letters, he brings new perspective to this vast undertaking, analyzing it as a cohesive expression of the visionary landscape and planning principles that Olmsted and Vaux pioneered.
“In 1868, an invitation was made to Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the men who had designed Central Park, to come upstate and pass their judgements on the opportunity for Buffalo to demonstrate its civic arrival with a grand new park. This is the story that Francis Kowsky tells, and he does so virtually to perfection."
“Kowsky reminds us that parks are not open spaces awaiting development, and that people need trees, meadows, expanses of water, and walking paths, and biking trails. . . . [His} masterful book makes the visionary landscape and planning principles Olmsted and Vaux pioneered in Buffalo clear, with the hope that restoration efforts will once again allow it to become the best planned city in the world.”
“In his magnificent new book, with its lucid prose and deft organization, Kowsky follows the evolution of Olmsted and Vaux’s astonishing creations in Buffalo—those ‘landscapes of recreation, residence, memory, and healing,’ as he so gracefully describes them. . . . An extraordinary variety and abundance of illustrations fill the book, including photographs new and old, maps, diagrams, paintings, and lithographs.”
“In this book Francis R. Kowsky illuminates this remarkable constellation of projects. Utilizing original plans, drawings, photographs, and copious numbers of reports and letters, he brings new perspective to this vast undertaking, analyzing it as a cohesive expression of the visionary landscape and planning principles that Olmsted and Vaux pioneered.”
“This is the best kind of history: informative, revealing, and directly useful to the current needs of the city its author so vividly portrays at its moment of genuine civic pride and optimism.”
“Showcasing original plans, drawings, photographs, reports and letters, The Best Planned City in the World: Olmsted, Vaux, and the Buffalo Park System is a superbly written and presented work of scholarship that is highly recommended for academic library American History collections, and to non-specialist general readers with an interest in Fredrick Law Olmsted, Calvert Vaux, 19th Century landscaping, or the history of the Buffalo Park System.”
2014 J. B. Jackson Book Prize from the Foundation for Landscape Studies
About the Author
Francis R. Kowsky
Francis R. Kowsky, FSAH, is author of The Best Planned City in the World: Olmsted, Vaux, and the Buffalo Park System, recipient of a J. B. Jackson Book Prize by the Foundation for Landscape Studies, and the introduction to the LALH reprint edition of The Art of Landscape Architecture by Samuel Parsons Jr. Kowsky is SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Buffalo State College and author of Country, Park, and City: The Architecture and Life of Calvert Vaux.