In 2018, we celebrated 150 Years of Olmsted’s Legacy in Buffalo & America’s First Urban Park System. “Our Better Nature” was curated by Lauren Becker, FLAT HAT EXHIBITS
About Our Better Nature
Frederick Law Olmsted. For those who recognize the name, it usually calls to mind images of New York City’s Central Park, or maybe Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition, or perhaps the Biltmore Estate in the mountains of North Carolina.
At the very least, we associate Olmsted with beautiful parks, but why does that matter? What makes him and his parks so special?
If we learn more, we are shocked to discover Olmsted parks are completely artificial. The meadows, the lakes, the groves of trees— they are real, but not original. Olmsted put them there by design. But why? Why set aside valuable city land only to plant trees and dam streams for the pleasure of a shaded path or a tranquil pond?
If we learn even more, we know Olmsted practically invented the profession of landscape architecture, but how? More importantly, why? Where did his ideas come from? Why was he so good at it? Why does Buffalo have so many Olmsted parks, and why should we do everything we can to protect and preserve them?
The answers begin when we discover Olmsted’s story before he became the great park-maker. The more we learn about what inspired Olmsted, the more he inspires us and brings out Our Better Nature.
Our Better Nature was first exhibited at The Buffalo History Museum Community Gallery in November 2018 through January 2019. You may view the exhibit today at the Parkside Lodge in Delaware Park, 84 Parkside Avenue.
About Lauren Becker
Lauren Becker is a former National Park Service interpretive ranger who’s worked in a variety of fields—literally: volunteering in the Canadian Arctic, teaching night sky constellations in the Badlands of South Dakota, and guiding hikes in Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park.
In 2005, she moved to Buffalo to earn a specialized master’s degree in “Science and the Public” from the University at Buffalo and served as Director of Outreach at the international science and philosophy think tank, Center for Inquiry. After a wonderful experience creating the 75th anniversary exhibit for Kleinhans Music Hall in 2015, Lauren launched FLAT HAT EXHIBITS to continue creating inspiring exhibits that help make the world more interesting, more entertaining, and more meaningful.
About the 150th Celebration of Olmsted in Parks in Buffalo
In 1868, Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture, came to Buffalo at the invitation of community leaders to discuss the creation of a Central Park-esque landscape for our own City.
Once here, Olmsted was inspired by Joseph Ellicott’s radial street system and Buffalo’s unique connection to the water and suggested the creation of not just one park, but a system of parks connected with green parkways and landscaped circles. This ingenious design became the nation’s first park system, totaling more than 850 acres of historic green space.
Throughout 2018, the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, in partnership with the community, has been celebrating 150 monumental years of Olmsted in Buffalo through a series of events and activations that bring our beautiful green space to life – both literally (through augmented reality!) and figuratively. Through this exhibit, the Conservancy seeks to tell the story of Olmsted’s extraordinary vision and encourage every member of the community to learn a little bit more about what makes our Olmsted Park System so special.
Special Thanks to the following supporters for making Our Better Nature possible
Charles D. and Mary A. Bauer Foundation
BlueCross BlueShield Western New York
Buffalo & Erie County Public Library – Special Collections
Buffalo History Museum & Research Library
Joe Cascio Photography
Peter Flynn, AIA & Courtney Creenan-Chorley, AIA – Flynn Battaglia Architects
Mark Johannesen & DKM Ad Art
Hyde Family Foundation
Jim Mendola and Nancy DeTine
Victor and Corinne Rice
Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site – Costume Resource Center
The Baird Foundation
Lindsay Romano & Daniel Vrana – University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning Digital Fabrication Lab
Vogt Family Foundation
Margaret L. Wendt Foundation
Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation