• Friends of Fairsted Programs



Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Olmsted Brothers’ Planning in California:
A Prescient Approach to Ecological Design

Christine E. O’Hara
Professor of Landscape Architecture, California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo

Professor of Landscape Architecture, California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo

The population migration and subsequent development pressures in California in the post WWI decades provided the Olmsted Brothers firm with opportunities to plan at a more expansive and complex scale than in their previous work. Working in topographically and climatically challenging landscapes, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. sought to develop a comprehensive approach in their multiple design commissions for residential communities, as well as urban and state park systems that would enhance the natural scenic and cultural features while planning wisely for sound infrastructure. The resultant master planning for the greater Los Angeles region was both ecologically prescient and problematic. Viewing the firm’s visionary designs, some built, some only planned, which impacted this vast megalopolis, this talk will consider the Olmsted work in terms of contemporary ecological issues.

As respondent, Fadi Masoud, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Toronto, will explore these projects in view of current demographic and climate changes.

7:00–8:30pm Lecture
Zoom Webinar. Lecture is Free. Registration is required.
Reserve here. A Zoom link will be sent to your email.

Christine-O'HaraChristine Edstrom O’Hara is Professor of Landscape Architecture, California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo; her research focuses on landscape history and historic preservation with expertise in the California work of the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and Art History from Stanford University, Master’s degree from University of Washington in Landscape Architecture and Preservation Planning, and PhD in Landscape Architecture from University of Edinburgh. O’Hara was awarded the Douglas Dockery Thomas Fellowship in Garden History and the Charles E. Beveridge Research Fellowship to support her research on the Olmsted firm’s ecological approach to design in 1920s Los Angeles. Her publications include essays in The Journal for the Society of Architectural Historians, Landscape Journal, Pacific Horticulture, Journal for Green Building and the International Journal of the Constructed Environment. Prof. O’Hara has had a landscape design practice for over 20 years and is the president of the California Garden & Landscape History Society and a trustee for the National Association for Olmsted Parks.

Fadi-MasoudFadi Masoud is an Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Toronto and Director of the Centre for Landscape Research. Masoud holds a Bachelors of Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo’s School of Planning, a Masters of Landscape Architecture from the University of Toronto, and a Post-Professional Master in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University.


Make a contribution to support the Friends of Fairsted Lecture Series.

We thank our co-sponsors for the 2020-2021 Lecture Series:
Friends of the Muddy River
High Street Hill Association
National Association for Olmsted Parks
Olmsted Design LLC
Reed Hilderbrand
Pat Surhcke


April 2020:
A Place of His Own: Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.: His Life and Work in Landscape Architecture and Planning

Elizabeth Hope Cushing, PhD
November 2019:
Climate Change and Urban Landscapes: Extending Olmsted’s Legacy

Chris Reed

December 2018: 
Saving Central Park: A History and A Memoir

Elizabeth Barlow Rogers

April 2018:
What Is a Park For? Olmsted, Obama, and the Meanings of Urban Landscape

Carlo Rotella
December 2017:
Beyond Drawings: The Olmsted Archives as Muse and Vision

Lucinda Brockway

March 2017:
Lewis Mumford’s Green Urbanism

Aaron Sachs
December 2016:
From the Granite Garden to West Philadelphia (with a nod to the Fens): Restoring Nature & Communities

Anne Whiston Spirn

April 2016:
Parks: Cornerstone of Civic Revitalization

Rolf Diamant
December 2015:
The “Fairsted School”: An Enduring Legacy

Ethan Carr

March 2015:

Gary Hilderbrand

December 2014:
Dwelling in Landscape

Daniel Bluestone

March 2014:
The Shaping of Regions: The New York Regional Plan and the Origins of Planning in America

Robert Yaro

November 2013:
From Buffalo to Boston: Olmsted’s Evolving Vision of Urban Park Systems

Francis R. Kowsky