Perspective and Symbiotic Relationship

Five months ago I was invited to co-curate an exhibit at Olana, the 250-acre home of Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), who is best know as a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters. Church was also a self-professed architect, landscape architect and interior designer. For the exhibit that opened August 14th entitled, Follies, Function & Form: Imagining Olana’s Summer House, 21 architects and landscape architects, were invited to imagine and sketch the summer house that was identified by Church on the master plan for Olana, but never designed or realized. Thanks to this opportunity I have been thinking a great deal about the relationship between architect and landscape architect. 

In the Olana exhibition all participants were equal, whether architect or landscape architect, and each submission opened new possibilities for a summerhouse at Olana. What a terrific way to approach any project, embracing all ideas arising from different perspectives. 

Architects and landscape architects often approach projects from different perspectives, yet there is a symbiotic relationship between structures and their surrounding landscapes.
— Forward, Follies, Function & Form; Imagining Olana’s Summer House
Olana, Frederic Church's Masterpiece

Olana, Frederic Church's Masterpiece

Tower view from Olana, Hudson, NY

View of Hudson River from Olana

Living in the Hudson Valley, I’m surrounded by examples of the elegant balance and symbiotic relationship between built structures and the surrounding landscape, whether it is intimate, vast, natural or designed. Conscientious, thoughtful design of the surroundings can enhance the simplest of structures.

These same practices and principles hold true for the relationship between architect and interior designer. With mutual respect and common goals we come together from different perspectives to enrich and create a symbiotic relationship between structures and their interior spaces.

The Court Hall in the main house at Olana

Entrance to Olana

Frederick Church was equally passionate about painting, architecture, landscape architecture and interior design. He had the means and the opportunity at Olana to delve into all of his passions and create an amazing place for generations to share. 

What a great gift he left behind! 

Hudson Valley inspired paintings by Frederic Church

Twilight in the Wilderness (1860) 

Sunset from Olana (1891)

Although we might not have our own personal Olana, how fortunate we are as architects to collaborate with landscape architect and interior designer, bringing different perspectives to our work, expanding beyond form to landscape and within form to place. Like Church, together and with each project, we also have the opportunity to leave great gifts behind!

If you haven’t visited Olana please do! It’s worth the trip up the Hudson River. A perfect summer outing and while you're there, you can catch the exhibit which is on display through November 13th.

Jane Smith, Partner


For more information about Olana, Hudson, NY
OLANA, Frederic Church's Masterpiece