Preview of Anatomy Of A Park: Edition IV

Anatomy of a Park, 3rd Edition image: Waveland Press
Anatomy of a Park, 3rd Edition
image: Waveland Press

Anatomy of a Park (AOAP) has had a long and successful career. First published in 1971, it was originally a series of lectures by Albert Rutledge to Parks and Recreation students aiming at careers in Park Management and Administration.  I was the illustrator and case study developer of the first edition.  I’ve continued as the illustrator and became the author for the subsequent editions (1986, 2003).

The purpose of those original lectures and the resulting book was to build a bridge between the designers of parks and the users of parks.  Our goal was to explain our profession as landscape architects to people who would represent park users, administer park systems, and who would hire the design professionals who would bring the parks to life.  This new update, Edition IV, provides new information as a supplement to the timeless resource.  What follows is a sneak peak at the updates and plans for the new edition.

WHY the new edition of AOAP?  (You’ll see a lot of “WHY” in the new edition.)

The bridge-building between agencies responsible for creating parks and the professionals who do the planning, design, and construction of parks will always need refurbishing, upgrading, and reinforcement.  The economic impact of the partnership of landscape architecture with agencies responsible for parks and their development could never be clearer.  To that end, the first two chapters will continue to clarify and update the nature of this relationship.

There are two “haves” to all park developments. There are those who have the [A]-BEGINNING AND ENDING; and those who have the [B]-MIDDLE

Which of the two “haves” are most important?


The [A] people are the folks who conceive of a park (with no clear idea of what it will look like or how it will work or how to get it built).  They also raise the money to pay for the answers (to these questions).  And they keep raising the money to pay for its future care.  And they’re also the people who will use the park.  They are the BEGINNING.  They are not exactly the ENDING, because like nearly all projects, parks are NEVER-ENDING.


The [B] people are the ones who design and build the park; the idea refiners, the process definers, the constructors, and the maintainers (who slip over into the NEVER-ENDERS).

Both sides are critical.  The titles and professional names may change in the future, but the fact of functions pursued by [A]s and [B]s will never disappear.  So the purpose of Edition IV is still the same as the original, strengthening the relationships between the [A]s and [B]s.  The new edition goes on to the expanding opportunities and responsibilities for designers as part of a complete display of the process and tools of project design, again bringing together the [A]s and [B]s as partners in the development.

Additions and Evolutions in the Chapters of Anatomy of a Park Edition IV

Chapter One (Context: Past and Present) and Chapter Two (The Umbrella Considerations)

Chapter One will address the relationship and the issues affecting both [A]s and [B]s.  The objective is to establish a framework and perception of issues to allow the reader to place a call to Frederick Law Olmsted (resurrected and an enthusiastic user of a SmartPhone) and have no problems discussing a project in planning (aside from possibly the new 3D documents being used).  Fred will catch on immediately.  The principles will be the same that he applied.

Figure 1 excerpt from Anatomy of a Park image: Donald Molnar
Excerpt from Anatomy of a Park, 3rd Edition, Frederick Law Olmsted
image: Donald Molnar

Selecting and hiring the professional consultant – At this point in the production of AOAP IV, somewhere in or near Chapter Two or Chapter Four (The Functional Considerations) a new section will be introduced, focusing on the Park Development agency’s responsibility for selecting and hiring the professional consultant who will be the designer of the park.  The discussion will be driven from both sides – [A] and [B].

WHY?  Because after the continuous economic pie-in-the-face experience of nearly all of the last decade, both sides have good reason to be concerned about how the money (if there is any) gets spent and on whom (since there are constantly increasing numbers of “whoms” on which to spend it) the (totally inadequate) fee is spent.  Whew!

The process of selecting a consultant has a long and generally respectable history with excellent agencies across the country studying their own processes and doing everything possible to make the process orderly, clear, and fair to anybody concerned with the results.  The section included for this purpose will reach to both sides, [A] and [B], with evaluations of successful presentations, appraisals, procedures, and the weighting systems, in all their variety, used for ultimate judgments.

Chapter Three (The Aesthetic Considerations) and Chapter Four (The Functional Considerations)

In the long view of AOAP’s history, I’m confident that when we call Fred (F.L.Olmsted), he would agree that not much needs to get fixed in these chapters.  The advice and examples offered are still the basics of LA education and common sense guidelines.  In addition, throughout the book, suggestions and examples will amplify sensible ideas of sustainability, water management, and recycling.

Recognizing that one of the constants in any park is the need for appropriate and abundant seating, seating will need to be a special new feature.  The bubble diagram stage of every plan is followed by detailed design and construction of each bubble’s contents.  But the space between the bubbles may have walks or trails following the linking lines between the bubbles, but not much else.  What goes on there?  More likely, what doesn’t?  These are some of the most valued seating areas in every park, used for nothing but sitting and looking.  What forms of furniture do people sit on and how do they enjoy the experience?  Included this time will be a visual encyclopedia of seating layouts and the resulting relationships.

Excerpt from the seating graphic page image: Donald Molnar
Excerpt from visual encyclopedia of seating layouts
image: Donald Molnar

Chapter Five (Plan Interpretation)

Some additional information with samples of computer-generated 3D topography will be introduced, along with Google Earth examples also with USGS topo.

Chapter Six (Site Design Process)

Some modifications to computer support and applications

Chapter Seven (Plan Evaluation) 

The evaluation process will be clarified on all the case studies with hints for crucial observation.  Not easier, just more informative with more tools for teaching.  Lots of “WHY” in this chapter.

Chapter Eight (Good Park, Great Park)

Increasing numbers of truly new parks; in the sense that they may be deliberate tourist targets, associated with convention facilities, educational or research facilities, and in some cases actual profit centers for the agency responsible.  Need to reevaluate park agency’s service existing vs potential.

Chapter Nine (The Bottom Line)

Still is!

Throughout the book, more explanations of case study details will be included.  Every effort is being made to enable the book to be identified and embraced by a wider audience than ever before.  I hope the book will be recognized for its value to landscape architects and park and recreation agencies as a tool as well as a textbook.

Although it’s an excellent place to start as a landscape architect, its value to a practitioner could be as a marketing aid to help a client understand what landscape architects bring to creating a park.  For a park administrator, its value could be as a guidebook in the hands of new board members who would thereby have a clear idea of what comes in what order as the park idea develops and, even better, has an idea of what they’re looking at when they see the rough new site or the finished drawings for the first time.

Bottom Line: more bridges, greater understanding, better parks.

by Donald Molnar, FASLA, Co-Author and Illustrator of ‘Anatomy of a Park’, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Editions

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