Landscape architect Lake Douglas employs written accounts,
archival data, historic photographs, lithographs, maps, and city
planning documents -- many of which have never before been
published -- to explore public and private outdoor spaces in New
Orleans and those who shaped them. The result offers the first
in-depth examination of the city's landscape history.
Douglas presents this "beautiful and imposing" city as a work of
art crafted by numerous influences. His survey from the colonial
period to the twentieth century finds that geography, climate, and,
above all, the multicultural character of its residents have made
New Orleans unique in American landscape design history. French and
Spanish settlers, Africans and Native Americans, as well as
immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Italy, and other parts of the
world all participated in creating this community's unique public
and private landscapes. Places such as Congo Square, Audubon Park,
the river levees, and "neutral grounds" -- local residents' own
term for medians -- together with ordinary residential gardens are
all testaments to the city's international imprint.
Douglas identifies five types of public and private designed
landscapes in New Orleans: squares, linear open spaces, urban
parks, commercial pleasure gardens, and domestic gardens.
Discussing their design, function, and content, he shows how
specific examples of each contribute to the city's unique character
and also fit within the larger context of American landscape design
history. Each type has its own complexion and reflects the
influence of those who occupied it. Though New Orleanians lived in
strata according to language, cultural identity, economics, and
race, they found common ground, literally, in their community's
Douglas's sweeping study, illustrated with over 90 color and
black-and-white images, includes an exploration of archival
horticultural books, almanacs, and periodicals; information about
laborers who actually built landscapes; details of horticultural
commerce, services, and marketing materials; and an exhaustive
inventory of plants grown in New Orleans for agricultural,
medicinal, and ornamental uses.
Public Spaces, Private Gardens provides an informative look at
two hundred years of the designed landscapes and horticulture of
New Orleans and a fresh perspective on one of America's most
interesting and historic cities.
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