The Buffalo News reported this morning that plans are moving forward to rehabilitate a historic building (the first designed by the first internationally famous US architect Henry Hobson Richardson) and landscape (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted). What an exciting project! The historic building, located in Buffalo, NY, was an insane asylum and is a very attractive and interesting example of “Richardson Romanesque”. It is slated to become a boutique hotel. The landscape plan calls for removing multiple surface parking lots in front of the building and changing vehicular- and pedestrian pathways to in order to re-establish the Olmstedian boulevards in a park-like setting. I can’t wait to make a a visit when it is all completed.
And three cheers for the Urban Landscape Institute for insisting the the site be called ‘The Richardson Olmsted Complex’ recognizing the equal importance of the famed landscape designer.
Documents can be viewed at www.richardsonolmsted.com .
I think this excerpt from the history of the site is so interesting:
The complex and grounds were originally built on 203 acres of largely undeveloped farmland. The V-shaped design consisted of the central tower building with five buildings flanking on each side, connected by curved corridors, branching out in a “flock of geese” formation. This design was representative of what was then known as the Kirkbride system, named after the physician who developed it. As a stage of development in the classification and treatment of mental illnesses, Kirkbride’s system was designed with a central administration building flanked by patient wards in a V-formation. This enabled patients to be gathered according to the type and level of their illness. Rooms were arranged along both sides of the corridor and the buildings were designed for maximum light, ventilation, and privacy, and a home like atmosphere.
The central tower building and adjacent buildings were constructed using Medina Sandstone quarried in nearby Orleans County. The wings were constructed with brick.
A plan for laying out the grounds was prepared by Olmsted and partially completed. Olmsted’s paths and arrangement of spaces were designed to facilitate the activities and philosophy underlying the Kirkbride system. Calvert Vaux, also a landscape architect and collaborator with Olmsted, contributed to the final layout.
The final landscape design laid out the front side of the grounds as a park-style open space, ringed by winding walkways. It was thought that the park-like setting with spacious tree-shaded lawns would have a calming and therapeutic effect on the patients. The grounds behind the hospital buildings were the site of a large, 100-acre farm which extended to the rear boundary of the grounds at the Scajaquada Creek. These farmlands served to provide patients with constructive outdoor physical work in the form of farming, believing that purposeful physical labor would contribute to increasing the patients’ healing and general well-being.
Interesting to see how a master of of the landscape world approached a ‘therapeutic’ landscape and garden.
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