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Humanized Mode in Landscape Design

The older, simpler, and more direct mode, the "humanized" mode, frankly appeals, as do most works of art, to the deep-rooted human pleasure in exhibitions of the skill and power of man, and in evidences of man's control over nature.  Its primitive exemplar was the conspicuously safe and orderly garden, hard-won from the hostile and dreaded wilderness of the world at large, separated from that wilderness by a girdle of defence which gave the name of " garden," and contrasting in appearance with the apparent disorder of that untamed wilderness as much as the skill and resources of the gardener could make it.  Practical convenience and these artistic motives alike called for straight rows, rectangular forms, and other simple, obviously man-made, geometric forms and relationships; the more beautiful in their proportions and composition and in the distribution of color and light and shade the better, provided this beauty was of an obvious and man made sort, deliberately avoiding, except in details like flowers and leaves, those complex and subtle exhibitions of the working of natural forces which we sophisticated moderns have come to believe profoundly orderly even where we do not understand them, and which we can recognize as beautiful because we are no longer dominated by fear of the powers they represent. 

Landscapes characterized by the more obvious and simple geometrical forms and relationships — squares, rectangles, circles, and circular arcs, arranged in perfect symmetry on the two sides of a well-marked axis — are often called "formal" in design.  Such a "formal" framework of design is the simplest and safest basis for frankly humanized landscapes today as always, but there can be a gradual transition into arrangements the form, or formality, and orderliness of which are more complex and subtle and less obvious but no less beautiful and no less frankly and conspicuously the work of man.  Some of the highly artificial and conventionalized "landscape" gardens of the Japanese and Chinese are striking examples of this type; not "formal" in the sense in which we speak of formal gardens, yet conspicuously and proudly proclaiming their human craftsmanship. 

— Frederick Law Olmsted  

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