• Cotton Kingdom, Now
    Sara Zewde

Frederick Law Olmsted, A Map of the Cotton Kingdom and Its Dependencies in America, 1862, London, England. Courtesy of Cornell University – PJ Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography.

In 1852, the New York Times commissioned 31-year-old Frederick Law Olmsted to conduct an immersive research journey through the Southern slave states. The country was headed towards civil war, and the paper sought to dispatch young Olmsted for his ability to reveal the cultural and environmental qualities of landscape in a narrative voice. Olmsted's subsequent book—Journeys and Explorations in the Cotton Kingdom—proved timely, published within weeks of the first shots at Fort Sumter. Notably, Olmsted's period of writing and reflecting on the South would coincide with his Central Park competition entry, a design that shaped the profession of landscape architecture. This project proposes retracing Olmsted's journeys, from Virginia to East Texas, to investigate the relationship between his southern writings and his practice of landscape architecture, and bring this text into the central understanding of the profession.

Sara Zewde is an independent landscape designer based in Seattle, Washington, practicing at the intersection of landscape, urbanism, and public art. Zewde holds a master’s of landscape architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, a master’s of city planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a BA in sociology and statistics from Boston University. Zewde was named the 2014 National Olmsted Scholar by the Landscape Architecture Foundation and a 2016 Artist-in-Residence at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Her design work in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was featured at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. Formerly, she was a designer at Gustafson Guthrie Nichol.