Vaux was a young British architect and landscape architect when he was recruited by Andrew Jackson Downing in 1850 to assist in Downing’s flourishing architecture and landscape design practice in the Hudson River Valley. After Downing was killed in steamship explosion on the Hudson River in 1852, Vaux joined another British-born architect recruited by Downing, Frederick Withers, to carry on after Downing’s death. Vaux’s most important collaborator was Frederick Law Olmsted, with whom he submitted the winning “greensward” design for Central Park. In 1857, Vaux published Villas and Cottages, an illustrated book of designs for country houses in the “Victorian Gothic” style.
Frederic Church retained Vaux to assist him with the architectural plan for the Olana villa. While there is no documentary evidence that he —or his partner Olmsted—had a role in creating Olana’s designed landscape, Vaux was skilled at integrating buildings into their natural surroundings, and favored naturalistic, rustic designs in the many parks he created, alone and with Olmsted. This integration of structure and landscape characterizes Olana as well.