2017 Merit Award

Olana Strategic Design Plan

Category: Analysis, Planning, Research and Communications

Landscape Architect:

Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects


Project Team:

Suzanne Turner Associates

The LA Group

About the Project:

Located on 250 acres in the Hudson Valley, the Olana State Historic Site was the home and studio of Hudson River School painter, Frederic Church, and is considered his greatest work of art. Today it represents an important extant example of the American Picturesque.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) and The Olana Partnership (TOP), commissioned an assessment of Olana programmatically, operationally, and ecologically. The Strategic Landscape Design Plan (SLDP) provides the path for reactivating the historical relationships between the residence, the landscape, and the greater context. The SLDP focuses on increased visitor attendance and engagement by articulating the client’s mission for increased access and educational opportunities, and reestablishing the cohesive experience of Olana.

Project Location: Hudson, New York

Special Factors

Three landscape architecture firms facilitated the planning process. The lead firm guided the design vision; the second developed site guidelines and phased costing and a landscape historian provided critical research. Farm and economic analysis consultants ensured synergy between mission, design, and feasibility.

Planning was informed by workshops with TOP and NYSOPRHP representatives, providing design priorities, the preservation of viewsheds, and the design of areas of intervention – the Olana Center, the Farm, and the House Environs:

  • As a means to engage visitors early in their experience the design relocates the visitor center to a new facility outside the historic core, offering an array of programmatic landscape options to supplement tours of the
  • The Farm was central to Olana’s sense of place and measured over one third of the property by the 19th Church considered it as much an aesthetic endeavor as a productive one. The proposed plan reinstates the ferme ornée providing educational and revenue opportunities.
  • A number of the discrete restoration projects around the main house are detailed in the plan. The proposed circulation strategy reaffirms the route that Church orchestrated, and will lead visitors from the driveway to the The vision restores the landscape to accurately reflect the quality of design, materials and spatial conditions of the House Environs extant during Church’s time.

The SLDP provides a vision for wider access, education and engagement at Olana for a 21st century audience, reframing the physical experience to facilitate a deep exploration of Church’s life and art. Through a commitment to the articulation of one of the most fascinating stories of American art and landscape, the team created a resilient plan for the preservation of this important cultural landscape, and will make manifest the designed landscape as an art form, preserved for future generations.