Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Olmsted and America's Urban Parks

Starting on Thursday, June 30 at 9 p.m., and for the next 6 weeks, WSBE Rhode Island PBS broadcasts the beautifully filmed and fascinating story by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, The National Parks: America's Best Idea.

Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales – from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska - The National Parks: America's Best Idea is nonetheless a story of people: people from every conceivable background – rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy.

The series is re-broadcast every Saturday at 1:30 a.m.


Before the mini-series begins, WSBE presents Olmsted and America's Urban Parks on Thursday, June 30 at 8 p.m. and at 12:30 a.m. (half after midnight) on Saturday, July 2.

151 years after Frederick Law Olmsted designed New York City’s Central Park with Calvert Vaux, it remains an undisputed haven of tranquility amidst one of the largest, tallest, and most unnatural places on earth.

Olmsted and America's Urban Parks examines the formation of America’s first great city parks in the late 19th century, through the enigmatic eyes of Frederick Law Olmsted (1822 – 1903), visionary urban planner and landscape architect.

With incredible foresight that spanned centuries, Olmsted brought nourishing green spaces to New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Louisville, and dozens of other US cities. Throughout his working life, Olmsted and his firm carried out over 500 commissions, nearly 100 of which were public parks. The parks, he held, were to be vital democratic spaces in cities, where citizens from all walks of life could intermingle and be refreshed.

Prior to officially committing to landscape architecture, Olmsted was a New York Times correspondent to the Confederate states, the manager of a California gold mine, and General Secretary of the United States Sanitary Commission during the Civil War. The man, a workaholic by today’s standards, plagued with chronic ailments, spent the latter half of his life devoting nearly every waking minute to creating restorative green spaces for overworked city dwellers. In large part through his own words, this film weaves together his engaging and poignant personal story with those of the lasting masterpieces he left for us today.