Olmsted's Vision

Taken from "The Colombian Exhibition"


In 1890 the Citizens of Chicago decided to make a name for their city. In order to do this, they decided to  hold a World's Fair, and they wanted it to be the best World's Fair ever.

Olmsted was hired on as the site designer, by Daniel Burnham who was overseeing the project. The site that was selected was not his original choice, but because of transportation needs the eventual site won out. Ironically, the site had been one that Olmsted and Vaux had designed a park for earlier, that had been rejected.

The site was a treeless marsh with one redeeming aspect: a lagoon. After dredging the marsh, and deepening the lagoon, Olmsted created beautiful terraces and grand pedestrian walkways throughout the complex that all led to the central area around the lagoon, which was surrounded by neo-classical styled buildings. This was one of the finest examples of Olmsted's blend of the naturalistic landscaping with large public buildings.

See below, by hovering over the map of the World's Fair, where the proposed OPC will be located in relation to the buildings and architectural landscaping of Olmsted's World's Fair plans.

Preserving Parkland: Designed to honor Olmsted’s democratic idea of a park as a gathering place open and accessible to all.  (Source)


In their report to the South Park Commission in 1871, famed landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux said the park they envisioned was intended for everyone, but in particular for the “thousands of the very class of citizens whose convenience most needs to be considered…the toiling population of Chicago.” The landscape architects believed that urban parks not only provided refuge from the stresses of city life, but were also democratic and cultural places for all classes of people to interact. The OPC landscape will embrace the design principles of Olmsted and Vaux and honor the rich history of the park.


See Blair Kamin's Column here (or click here to read the text only), "Obama center plans won't destroy Olmsted's park — they should be improved, not rejected"