Emerald Necklace

Emerald Necklace

How did Olmsted’s work, for instance his design of the Emerald Necklace, signal an emergent ecological sensibility? How did the design respond to its context or place?

The following essay will examine Frederick Law Olmsted’s ‘Emerald Necklace’, the Boston Park system which he designed and constructed between the years of 1878 and 1896. The park system is essentially a series of parks connected together which stretches over 5 miles throughout the city of Boston. The parks included are: Boston Common, Public Garden, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Back Bay Fens, Riverway, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond Park, Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park.

The design of this string of parks signified an emergent ecological sensibility as the design Olmsted created was one which worked with nature and the environment instead of against it. The design of the Emerald Necklace sought to encompass natural formations of the landscape which were already present in the area. These natural land formations such as streams, marshes, meadows and woods, were transformed into an urban park system. The parks were created with the environment in mind instead of creating a totally new and constructed landscape which was stripped of its original foundations.

Ecological design was a priority for Olmsted. He sought to improve and restore the original landscape as well as create an urban space for city dwellers which connected them back to nature. For example, The Black Bay Fens was originally a salt marsh area which was flooded twice a day due to tides. In 1821 a dam was built which disturbed the natural processes of the marsh and consequently turned it into a sewerage pit. Olmsted redesigned this area so that the sanitation problem was solved and the area was restored to its original salt marsh condition. This created a natural looking landscape which provided a wild and seemingly untamed space for city dwellers.

Olmsted’s design responded to the needs of the Boston City and its citizens not...

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