Back to top

11.02.17 – Fadi Masoud explores what Olmsted can teach us about resilience and adaptation

Last week, Assistant Professor Fadi Masoud presented a paper titled “Landscape’s Comprehensive Standards” at the 17th annual National Conference on Planning History under a session titled "Projects by the Olmsted Firm: Sourcing the Past to Improve Resilience” hosted by the Society for American City & Regional Planning History in Cleveland, Ohio.

The paper explored a selection of Olmsted's landscape-driven comprehensive planning projects from the turn of the last century, and compared them to corollary principles exemplified in contemporary resilience and adaptation design strategies today.

Masoud conducted the research on Olmsted’s projects as part of the 2016 Beveridge Fellowship at the Fairsted National Olmsted Archives. A set of strategies were extracted by analyzing coastal projects completed by the Olmsted office such as:

  • Plan for the Rockaways (1879),  
  • New York City's Regional Plan (1920) (pictured above),
  • The Toronto Island’s Waterfront Plan (1912),
  • Riverside Park Park and Extension in Manhattan’s Upper West Side (1913),
  • Florida’s Lakelands and Winterhaven Subdivisions (1921), and
  • Boston’s Back Bay Fens (1877)

Concepts such “Landscape as Filter”,  “Space for Dynamic Flexibility”, the “Integration of Green and Grey Infrastructure”, and “Landforms as Buffer”, are critical planning and design strategies present in both Olmsted’s coastal planning work, and the winning entries of contemporary design competitions such as Rebuild by Design (2014), MoMA’s Rising Currents (2010), and WaterfronToronto (ongoing).

The Society for American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH) is an interdisciplinary organization dedicated to promoting scholarship on the planning of cities and metropolitan regions over time, and to bridging the gap between the scholarly study of cities and the practice of urban planning. The organization’s members come from a range of professions and areas of interest, and include historians, architects, planners, environmentalists, landscape designers, public policy makers, preservationists, community organizers, and students and scholars from across the country and around the world.