Cotton Kingdom, Now

In 1852, the New York Daily Times commissioned a 31-year-old Frederick Law Olmsted to conduct an immersive research journey through the Southern slave states. The country was headed toward civil war, and the paper dispatched young Olmsted for his ability to reveal the cultural and environmental qualities of landscape in a narrative voice. Today, landscape architecture, urban design, and planning—disciplines Olmsted helped to shape—continue to grapple with the economic, political, and ecological conditions rooted in systems he documented so vividly 165 years ago. This seminar will investigate the relationship between a host of major contemporary issues with the documented conditions in Olmsted’s 1861 book, Journeys and Explorations in the Cotton Kingdom. The seminar positions Olmsted’s journey not only as source material but also as methodological proposition, in reflection on the significance and methods of research and representation in design practice.

Instructor: Sarah Zwede