Central Park – NYC


Central Park was arguably Calvert Vaux’s masterwork, co-created with his partner at the time, Frederick Law Olmsted, who Vaux invited to participate in a competition with him for a public park for the center of Manhattan in 1857. Olmsted had never before participated in the design of a park nor had he designed a landscape plan prior to this time. The winner of the competition was Vaux and Olmsted’s Greensward Plan, which formed the basis of the layout of Central Park. Even though the overall concept belonged to both men, Olmsted was misleadingly appointed “architect in chief and superintendent” while Vaux, less adept at self – promotion, was officially Olmsted’s per diem assistant, later promoted to a salaried “consulting architect.” Olmsted acknowledged that it was Vaux who was directly responsible for the design of Central Parks’ more than twenty bridges, gazebos, pavilions and other structures, including the magnificent Belvedere Castle and Bethesda Terrace,which, in the words of Vaux scholar Francis Kowsky, “constituted the most lavish piece of civic art that New York had yet seen.” Many of these works were collaborations between Vaux and his talented and largely unsung design assistant, Jacob Wrey Mould, who personally created the elaborate decorative carvings of Bethesda Terrace.

The actual construction of the Park entailed many political, sometimes contentious, disagreements. The official year of completion of Central Park is given by sources as 1876 but the park has undergone many modifications since then, with some of those changes evoking heated controversy. Central Park Conservancy now serves as the steward of the Park. Vaux would be actively involved in the evolution of Central Park for the remainder of his life, as defender of the principles of the Greensward Plan. In the modern era, Vaux and Olmsted’s Central Park has assumed its place as the world’s most renown urban park.

— A.S. & F.K.