On Friday April 11, at 7:30 Landscape Architect Laurie Olin will be speaking on the impact that the work of French designer Andre Le Notre has had on his long career.
In 2013 Olin was presented with the prestigious National Medal of Arts by President Obama. Awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, it is the highest honor given to artists by the US Government. It is perhaps the greatest of a very, very long list of awards that have been presented to Olin and his architecture firms.
He is past head chair of the landscape architecture program at Harvard University, and still teaches design of environments at Pennsylvania University. He also is the founding partner of the landscape architecture and urban design firm OLIN.
Laurie is a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), and an honorary member of the American Insitute of Architects (AIA). He has written widely on the history and theory of architecture and landscape, receiving the Bradford Williams medal for best writing on Landscape Architecture.
The list of the landscape projects with which he was involved is also very, very lengthy. Projects just in this country include:
Battery Park City, New York
Columbus Circle, New York
J. Paul Getty Center, Los Angeles, California
Washington Monument, Washington, DC
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
An architect colleague stated that when you add to Olin’s lengthy list of projects – all the work produced by his university students from forty years of teaching, and those professionals who have passed through his office – his legacy might be the most significant since Olmsted.
He designs specifically to the sites themselves, and not to any preconceived statements he is trying to make. There is no signature Olin style. Olin’s landscapes are all about accommodating the layers of human movement through a given space while maximizing its experiential quality. His works are fully realized landscapes that are as beautiful as they are functional. He chooses pragmatism over pretense, and creates spaces that are artful, yet rooted in a fundamental desire to simplify – and improve – livability in this world.
His interest lies in what he terms “the conscious perfection of the ordinary – those passages of shade, pools of light, the play of vegetation, changes of surface in level, varying views and perspectives, the splash of water that echoes in music, the harmony and contrast of colors in the unpolluted sun – these are all very ordinary things, but making them available for citizens in their daily routine, in the heart of cities, is to serve up a very healthy dose of reality.”
Charles Birbaum’s Cultural Landscape Foundation recently featured the career and ideas of Laurie Olin as part of the oral history series.
Viewing it should reinforce making the opportunity to hear him at the Toledo Art Museum a must. The concise and unassuming manner in which he expresses his ideas is most impressive. His opinions of the importance of other landscape designers, such as Laurence Halprin and Dan Kiley, are very insightful, and his views of Le Notre in Toledo Friday should be very interesting.