Olmsted's main goal, no matter what he was doing was to
attempt to improve American society. He had visions of vast recreational and cultural
achievements in the hearts of cities. He did not see parks as just vast meadows, but
rather he saw them as places of harmony; places where people would go to escape life and
regain their sanity. He wanted these parks to be available to all people no matter what
walk of life the person followed.
Olmsted sought to advance a feeling of communitiveness, which is a sense of shared
community and dedicated service to the community among people. His concept of
the role of the landscape architect was as broad as his social and political concerns.
Olmsted saw his profession as the a way to shape the American city by designing public
parks and park systems to meet a wide range of recreational needs.
Olmsted had high expectations for his design's psychology and visual effects on people. He
believed that the perfect antidote to the stress and artificialness of urban life was a
nice stroll through a pastoral park. He foresaw places with graceful undulating greensward
and scattered growths of trees. He believed and promoted the idea that such an environment
would promote a sense of tranquility. Olmsted's vision was that the sense of calmness
that would come from the park by his separation of the different landscape themes and
Olmsted applied these principles of separation and subordination more consistently than
any other landscape architect of his era. Subordination was accomplished in his parks
where carefully constructed walks and paths would flow through landscape with gentle
grades and easy curves, thus requiring the viewer's minimal attention to the process of
movement. At the same time, many of the structures that Olmsted incorporated into his
parks merge with their surroundings. Separation is accomplished in his park systems by
designing large parks that were meant for the enjoyment of the scenery. Smaller
recreational areas for other activities and where "park ways" handle the
movement of pedestrians and vehicular traffic offset these large parks.
As a designer, Olmsted drew upon the influences of American natural scenery. He also drew
heavily on the social structure and value system of his native region. Another huge
influence was Andrew Jackson Downing, (1815-1852) who was probably the greatest promoter
of the "modern method of building," which was rural improvement.
Olmsted believed that the rural, picturesque landscape contrasted with and counteracted
the confining and unhealthful conditions of the crowded urban environment and served to
strengthen society by providing a place where all classes could mingle in contemplation
and enjoyment of the pastoral experience. He sought to screen his "pleasure
grounds" completely from the intrusions of daily life by screening them with thick
plantings along their borders, separating and excluding commercial traffic, and
discouraging all usage of the grounds which were not in harmony with this goal. He also
strove to bring the landscape as close to as much of the urban population as possible, so
that all could benefit from it.