Adult Programs

Bringing Nature to the City: Frederick Law Olmsted, O.C. Simonds, and the Arboretum Landscape (in person)

Discover the philosophical roots of The Morton Arboretum’s landscape and explore how landscape history shapes nature at the Arboretum and in Chicago today.

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Discover the philosophical roots of The Morton Arboretum’s landscape and explore how landscape history shapes nature at the Arboretum and in Chicago today.

2022 marks the 100th anniversary of The Morton Arboretum, and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, a master designer of public parks and a founder of the field of landscape architecture. Join historian and filmmaker Laurence Cotton (originator of and consulting producer to the PBS special “Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America”) and Arboretum landscape architect Susan Jacobson, for a deep dive into how Olmsted’s pioneering ideas set the stage for the work of O.C. Simonds, who designed the Arboretum. 

Learn about the remarkable life and career of the Renaissance-man Olmsted: writer, philosopher, social reformer, advocate for the preservation of natural scenery, and creator of some of the most beautiful public and private parks and gardens in all of N. America. Through the talk and examples from the landscape architecture collections from the Sterling Morton Library, discover the influences of design traditions, aesthetics, and philosophies that influenced Olmsted’s thought and ultimately, the landscape O.C. Simonds designed for the Arboretum. The program will touch on English garden design, the Hudson River School, and Transcendentalism, how those aesthetics and philosophies are being carried forward into Olmsted’s work, and the Arboretum’s future landscape.

Notes: Limit 45


Laurence Cotton, historian, writer, and filmmaker and Susan L.B. Jacobson, FASLA, PLA, head of site planning and design, The Morton Arboretum

Laurence Cotton is a practicing public historian, and writer/producer of historical films for PBS, Mr. Cotton was trained as a cultural anthropologist and brings that lens to bear on much of his work. He has worked with the tribal populations throughout the Columbia River watershed and has worked on open space acquisition and the designs of parks and trails in the Pacific Northwest. He brings training as an interpretive naturalist and is a birder and a photographer. He is currently based in Portland, Oregon, a city that benefits from an Olmsted-master planned park system, originally hails from Boston, renowned for its Olmsted landscapes and the home base for generations of landscape design practitioners working for the Olmsted Bros. firm. 

Susan Jacobson is the landscape architect and head of planning and site design for The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. With forty years of experience as a landscape architect in the Chicago area, she has worked in both private and public practice. Susan holds a BLA from the University of Illinois, and is licensed.  As a full member in the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) since 1982, she was elected Fellow in 1995, and received the President’s medal in 2017. Susan has served as the president of the Illinois Chapter and the National ASLA, and is still active on the National ASLA Honors and Awards and the Constitution and Bylaws committees. Susan also received the U of I Department of Landscape Architecture Alumni Medal in 2019 for outstanding support of the department and the profession.



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