“He paints with lakes and wooded slopes; with lawns and banks and forest-covered hills; with mountain sides and ocean views.”
Daniel Burnham, speaking of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Stone Bridge in a park setting

Cherokee Park in Louisville, Kentucky, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted

In 1893, Chicago architect Daniel Burnham was working hard to finish the design of the Chicago World’s Fair, also known as the Columbian Exposition. It spread over 600 acres with more than 200 buildings and attracted some 26 million visitors in its first six months. Working with Burnham was Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of modern landscape architecture.

By the time they collaborated on the World’s Fair, Olmsted had already designed New York’s Central Park and thousands of other projects around the country.

In the mid-19th century, industrialization sparked dramatic growth and cities became crowded and generally unpleasant places to live. In 1857, Harper’s Weekly called New York “a huge semi-barbarous metropolis…with filthy and unlighted streets, no practical or efficient security for either life or property.”

With this as the backdrop, it’s no wonder that Olmsted’s designs, focusing on “pastoral” and “picturesque” scenery, became so popular. Olmsted was all about giving people a natural, restorative landscape. It’s not as easy as it looks, and it’s why his work is still relevant today and why his principles of design are so revered.

Landscape architecture has evolved as the needs of the world have changed. Even so, landscape architects today would do well to paint scenes in the landscape with lakes and lawns and wooded slopes. And though our cities are not the semi-barbarous metropolises of the past, our need for restoration is greater than ever. Good landscape architecture can give us a place where our spirits find rest.


Pullman Square, of course. 

Posted: October 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

It’s a Tuesday evening, and Pullman Square is packed. Live music under the grandstand.  Why can’t someone do this in your hometown?

The secret is in a question.

I walked in the Jos. A. Banks store at Pullman Square.  The clerk says, “What brings you here?”

“Coffee,” I said.

It’s not what she meant, but it was true.  We had stopped in for a cup of coffee.  Then we discovered the music.  Then I shopped.  My wife shopped.  Then we listened to music again.

That is the secret.  Multiple reasons for people all day and all night to come by.  It works.

Murals in Covington.

Posted: June 18, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Last year I found a wild and crazy mural and parking lot in Covington, Kentucky.  Last week, I discovered two more.  These are by Faile, some sort of art collaborative that to be honest, I don’t understand.

Here are my sidewalk phone pics of the murals:

Covington Mural 1 Covington Mural 2

You can find better photos, along with more of Faile’s work, here.

“The street is the river of life of the city, the place where we come together, the pathway to the center.” – William H. “Holly” Whyte.

A friend in my writing world recently visited Paris and wrote a beautiful and engaging summary of her experience.  Read it, and you’ll understand what Holly Whyte meant when he called the street the river of life.  As Damyanti said, “It is the people who remain with me.”

Read her impressions of Paris here.



dig that crazy parking lot, man

dig that crazy parking lot, man

Look what I found.

It’s quite mad, you know. A Madlot, is what they call it. Is it art? Whimsy? Silliness? It’s the beginning of a re-branding effort of part of downtown Covington, Kentucky, to be known as Madland. Read about how it all came together here.

Sure, there are all kinds of questions associated with something like this.

Can you really drive on it? Yes, it still works as a parking lot.

How long will it last?   Who knows? Who cares?

What’s the point?  You must be an engineer.

Just follow the stripes.

Just follow the stripes.

I almost forgot to mention the mural.  That is high-quality art, friends.

Art on a very big scale.

Art on a very big scale.

In our planning and design, we strive for a result that is greater than the sum of its parts. In a downtown environment, there are many, many parts and there is always room for a little diversity. Downtown needs its colorful characters. Covington has a good one.