“Viewing Olmsted”

Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA)

Why do we equate images of open space with democratic ideals? And what role has Frederick Law Olmsted, the extraordinarily prolific nineteenth-century landscape architect who carved green spaces in the middle of so many North American cities, played in the construction of this visual fantasy? Though not explicitly articulated, these questions haunt the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s exhibition “Viewing Olmsted: Photographs by Robert Burley, Lee Friedlander, and Geoffrey James.” Mounted on the 100th anniversary of Olmsted’s retirement, as if to test his prediction that it would take his parks a century to mature, “Viewing Olmsted” presents a critical survey—its title foregrounding the act and apparatuses of vision, and its selection of three idiosyncratic photographers yielding deliberately disparate views of the landscape architect’s work. The product of a seven-year commission during

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