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John Charles Olmsted (1852-1920), the nephew and adopted son of Frederick Law Olmsted, was an American landscape architect. With his adopted brother, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., he founded Olmsted Brothers, a landscape design firm in Brookline, Massachusetts. The firm is famous for designing many urban parks, college campuses, and other public places. John Olmsted's body of work from over 40 years as a landscape architect has left its mark on the American urban landscape.
In 1852, John Charles Olmsted was born in Geneva, Switzerland, to John Olmsted and Mary Cleveland Perkins Olmsted. His father John, had contracted tuberculosis, and prescriptions of the day were fresh air and exercise. The John Olmsted family returned to the United States to reside at Tosomock Farm on Staten Island.
John Olmsted continued the park planning begun by his father. He carried his design philosophy of integrated park systems into new cities such as Portland, Maine; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Spokane, Dayton, and Charleston. In these cities, he pioneered his comprehensive planning philosophy of integrating civic buildings, roads, parks, and greenspaces into livable urban areas.
Olmsted also designed individual parks in New Orleans; Watertown, New York; and Chicago. His work in park design led to commissions for numerous institutions such as school campuses, civic buildings, and state capitols, as well as designs for large residential areas, including roads and schools. His work in comprehensive planning for the communities surrounding industrial plants and factories is considered especially noteworthy.
In all his work, John Olmsted retained a sensitivity to the natural beauty of the site, including its views, vistas, and greenways. He wanted to ensure that communities and public areas must be comfortable and inviting. He favored modest, informal structures in a naturalistic setting to large, imposing structures.
His first plan for an exposition was his work for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. He continued with the 1906 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon, and the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.
In 1899, John Olmsted was a founding member and first president of the American Society of Landscape Architects.