Bryant Fleming was the architect who designed Cheekwood, as well as countless other iconic American landscapes and structures.
Using Fleming as inspiration, this exhibition explores the process of creating an American Country Place Era estate, taking visitors on a journey through the development of a place like Cheekwood – with unexpected surprises along the way.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether or not you go, A Genius for Place: American Landscapes of the Country Place Era is a beautifully illustrated survey tracing the development of a distinctly American style of landscape design through an analysis of seven country places created by some of the nation's most talented landscape practitioners.
In the mid-nineteenth century Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of New York's Central Park, developed an approach to landscape design based on the principles of the English Picturesque which also emphasized a specifically American experience of nature and scenery. After Olmsted's retirement in 1897, these precepts continued to ground a new generation of American landscape architects through the next four decades, a period known as the "country place era," a time of rapid economic, social, and cultural change.
In the early twentieth century, new fortunes made it possible for wealthy Americans to commission country estates as a means of aggrandizing social status. These private havens also offered their owners respite from crowded cities and a way to preserve and celebrate places of distinctive landscape beauty. The commissions provided burgeoning numbers of landscape architects with opportunities to experiment with stylistic influences derived from Beaux-Arts, Arts and Crafts, and even Asian principles.
The seven projects profiled follow a broad geographic arc, from Stockbridge, Massachusetts, to Santa Barbara, California. Analyzing these designs in context with one another and against the backdrop of the professional and cultural currents that shaped larger projects―such as parks, campuses, and planned communities―Karson creates a rich and comprehensive picture of the artistic achievements of the period. Striking black-and-white images by landscape photographer Carol Betsch illuminate the transporting spirit of these country places today, while hundreds of drawings, plans, and historical photographs bring the past to life.