In 1930 the Olmsted Brothers and Harland Bartholomew & Associates submitted a report, "Parks, Playgrounds, and Beaches for the Los Angeles Region," to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. After a day or two of coverage in the newspapers, the report dropped from sight. The plan set out a system of parks and parkways, children's playgrounds, and public beaches. It is a model of ambitious, intelligent, sensitive planning commissioned at a time when land was available, if only the city planners had had the fortitude and vision to act on its recommendations.
"Parks, Playgrounds, and Beaches" has become a highly valued but difficult-to-find document. In this book, Greg Hise and William Deverell examine the reasons it was called for, analyze why it failed, and open a discussion about the future of urban public space. In addition to their introduction and a facsimile reproduction of the report, Eden by Design includes a dialogue between Hise, Deverell, and widely admired landscape architect Laurie Olin that illuminates the significance of the Olmsted-Bartholomew report and situates it in the history of American landscape planning.
Greg Hise is Associate Professor of Urban History and Planning at the University of Southern California and author of Magnetic Los Angeles: Planning the Twentieth-Century Metropolis (1997) and co-editor of Rethinking Los Angeles (1996). William Deverell is Professor of History at the University of Southern California and Director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West. He is the author of Railroad Crossing: Californians and the Railroad, 1850-1910 (California, 1994), coeditor of California Progressivism Revisited (California, 1994), and coeditor of Metropolis in the Making: Los Angeles in the 1920s (California, 2001).
"Eden by Design is a compelling and fascinating description of a possible Los Angeles that never came to be. Greg Hise and William Deverell have resurrected the Olmsted Brothers' 1930 plan for Los Angeles County, and then, in a wonderful introduction, put the plan in context so that to read it now is to see not only what seemed dangerous and possible in 1930 but also how and why one route to the present was chosen over others. In their hands, the plan acts like a ghost of Los Angeles, reminding us about a vanished past, lost possibilities, and the secrets that our present masks."—Richard White, author of The Organic Machine
"The Report is not only a vital document in the history of Los Angeles . . . but a lost classic of a neglected golden age of city planning and landscape architecture. . . . It embodies a truly regional perspective; an ecological perspective; a long-range vision; an integration of design with finance and administration; and a truly grand interpretation of public space. It deserves to be known to every serious student of the American planning tradition."—Robert Fishman, author of Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia
"An essential document for understanding the history of the West's largest city. Los Angeles had the opportunity to become an extraordinarily beautiful environment, a Paris in the desert. The editors make clear why, sadly, it did not; but also they hold out hope that portions of this brilliant but neglected plan might still be recovered."—Donald Worster, author of Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas
"A welcome addition to the literature of American urban planning history."—Roger Montgomery, Professor of Architecture Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley