Ethan Carr | Clean Water, Open Space, and a Distinctively American Urbanism

Ethan Carr | Clean Water, Open Space, and a Distinctively American Urbanism
Recorded: March 12, 1992

Landscape historian and preservationist Ethan Carr details how, in New York City, the procurement of fresh water and the planning for much-needed public open space were coupled to create an original and distinctively American brand of urbanism. Beginning at the turn of the 19th century, Carr relates how rampant disease (making the city a “deadly and uninhabitable place”) and Progressive Era reforms led to the combined planning of the water supply and park systems for practical reasons that were also symbolically associated in the ideal of a healthy city. “Based, above all, on doctrines of public health, both physical and spiritual,” this language of design found expression in the city’s reservoirs, which became significant public spaces, and the fountains that celebrated the bountiful water supply—most evident in the design of Central Park.

This lecture was originally presented as part of The Productive Park series, a design study organized in 1992 by The Architectural League, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and the Parks Council (now New Yorkers for Parks). The study sought innovative ideas for integrating civic infrastructure with neighborhood parks.