My grad project includes an old park designed by George Kessler, Rotary Park in Oklahoma City. Although Rotary Park is nowhere in scale to Yosemite or importance as the First Federal Park, I am reflecting on my grad project and my interest in the unique “Place” of Oklahoma.
I took notes of the conference, and I'm going to truncate them into incoherent little pieces of thought in an effort to stimulate thought and exploration.
My notes from John Dixon Hunt's presentation: "Translation of Landscape Attitudes
John Dixon Hunt-Professor of History and Theory of Landscape, University of PennsylvaniaJohn Dixon Hunt was the most fascinating of speakers. Being naturally drawn to such theory based lectures; I was a little bit star struck by his discussion and prose of the picturesque. I have learned in numerous classes, even back to architecture, about the picturesque. The Oxford Architectural Dictionary defines the picturesque “It was a standard of taste, largely concerned with landscape, and with emotional responses to associations evocative of passions or events…Picturesque scenes were full of variety, interesting detail, and elements drawn from any sources, so were neither serene(like the Beautiful) nor awe-inspiring (like the Sublime).
I jump to Rotary Park with many thoughts. George Kessler would have been well aware of the picturesque and beautiful ideals A.J. Downing described in “Landscape Gardening and Rural Architecture” 1841. The World’s Fair had been designed in elms and natives and picturesque textures. George Kessler was familiar with the Oklahoma landscape, the landscape of Chicago, Kansas City and Dallas. The prairie aesthetics were his specialty. Rotary Park was designed with some of these picturesque principles, even though a more active play park was becoming the next movement. It still would have been seen as a park for improving health and maintaining good morality, embracing many of the Olmsted principals of park design. At this point I haven't had the opportunity to dig through the actual design of Rotary Park. It is shelved until I finish a little more preparatory reading.
A little post conference research:
Kessler, George Edward (1862-1923)
“Pioneers of American Landscape Design”
· Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. recommended Kessler to the Kansas City, Fort Scott, & Gulf Railroad to take charge of the firm’s pleasure park in Merriam, Kansas.
· Designed Kansas City’s first park and boulevard plan for the city—Considered one of his finest works—A vision of the City Beautiful and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago
· Fairlawn Cemetery, OKC 1892
· Riverside and Overton Park and park system plan for Memphis, TN 1900
· Louisiana Purchase Expo in 1904
· Boulevard plan for Indianapolis 1905
· Park System for Syracuse, NY 1906
· Cincinnati park system 1906
· Fort Worth park and boulevard system 1907
· Denver Parks 1907
· 1910 starts work for Dallas
· 1911 publishes his proposal, which is showing signs of the “City Practical” movement as well as the City Beautiful