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Pioneers of American Landscape Design

National Park Service Historic Landscape Initiative, Heritage Preservation Services, Library of American Landscape History, The Catalog of Landscape Records in the United States at Wave Hill, The Cultural Landscape Foundation; Wendy Lochner, Senior Editor, Architecture & Design

Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA
Coordinator, Historic Landscape Initiative
National Park Service - Heritage Preservation Services
1849 C Street, NW (NC320)
Washington, DC 20240
Tel. 202-343-9597;
Fax 202-343-3921

Project Purpose

Pioneers of American Landscape Design documents the lives and design work of 162 landscape practitioners, including well-known figures, such as Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. and Thomas Church, and many less familiar names, all of who played significant roles in shaping America's designed landscape heritage. Thoroughly researched, richly-illustrated, and handsomely designed, the book was created to reach both professional and non-professional readers. Pioneers of American Landscape Design is a reference tool, a history book, and more. One goal was to establish the significance of individual landscapes to provide a foundation for management strategies today. Pete Walker, FASLA, as quoted on the book jacket; Pioneers is "...more than a who's who of the landscape architecture profession, the book also introduces the fascinating history of the designers of the American landscape, from George Washington to James Rose. Its 450 illustrations are a rich source of inspiration to contemporary designers, and its list of accessible sites facilitates visits for truer understanding of design principles."

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect conceived of the project and served as its director and co-editor. The landscape architect secured the project's cooperating federal agencies, universities, libraries and not-for-profit institutions and worked closely with the book's coeditor The landscape architect also secured most of the contributing authors, photographers, research volunteers, photo permissions and served as the primary author of the list of public landscapes. The coeditor, a historian, worked with the landscape architect to determine the final roster of practitioners, length of entries, illustration program, bibliography, and list of publicly accessible sites. Each entry was fact-checked for errors and missing information and edited at four different stages for clarity, grammatical accuracy, style, and consistency. Straightforward listing of facts were woven into a narrative meant to engage readers of all professional levels.


Special Factors

The Pioneers book is the product of ten years of work by the project sponsors who have worked closely with over 200 volunteer landscape architects, historians and others. All of the contributions to Pioneers, from the narrative essays to the photography and peer review work, were donated. Without these extraordinary contributions from national leaders in their respective fields this project would not have happened.


Pioneers of American Landscape Design is having a broad impact. The New York Times noted that the book is "uniting preservationists trying to drum up interest and money to save long-neglected parks whose designers were never recorded or have been long forgotten." Pioneers is also a source of design inspiration, an educational tool, and, according to one review, "a cutting garden of biography ." It reveals the importance of many practitioners whose work has been largely invisible and, in most cases, absent from contemporary accounts. Press coverage in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Louisville Courier Journal, Landscape Architecture and Garden Design, among others, is promoting the profession of landscape architecture from the point of view of both the practitioner and the client. Because many of the designers featured in Pioneers of American Landscape Design have been absent from print and therefore unsung, their landscapes have consequently been unsympathetically altered, lost, or threatened by demolition. Pioneers is providing the spark for better informed historic preservation and design, and inspiring broad research into American landscape history. By its very comprehensiveness, Pioneers begins to highlight the need for better stewardship of cultural landscapes nationwide. An enormous diversity of work is discussed in Pioneers-from the management of forests to farmyards, the laying out of cities and cemeteries, roads, river corridors, parklands, and private residences. Pioneers of American Landscape Design literally tells of the story of the shaping of our land.

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