a landscape lover's blog

garden tales from a Brit abroad

Celebrating Dan Kiley

As regular readers will know, I am a great fan of the work of the US designer Dan Kiley. His spare, modern parks and gardens arguably made him the finest and most influential landscape architect of twentieth century America.

So I’m delighted to be contributing to two events this autumn that celebrate his work.

A 1970 photograph of Kiley's modernist North Court, from www.lincolncenter.org

A 1970 photograph of Kiley’s modernist North Court, from http://www.lincolncenter.org

In October I will be speaking at an ICOMOS conference in Chandigarh called “Filling the Gaps: World Heritage and the 20th Century.” At a session dedicated to historic urban landscapes of the 20th century, I will analyse the treatment of Kiley’s seminal 1960s design for the North Court at Lincoln Center in New York City, which was sadly neglected and then effectively dismantled.

La Défense

Some of the magnificent groves of plane trees laid out by Kiley at La Défense

In the US, The Cultural Landscape Foundation is organising a major retrospective of Kiley’s work. Having offered to contribute, I was surprised to find how many articles I had written and how many photographs I had taken of Kiley designs. They are now all available to the Foundation as it finalises its plans for a Landslide compendium and a travelling exhibition of photographs that will display some of his most important commissions, including his work at La Défense.

La Défense

The water feature at the end of Kiley’s esplanade through La Défense

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10 comments on “Celebrating Dan Kiley

  1. Charlie@Seattle Trekker
    August 18, 2013

    I absolutely love the water feature and the perspective in the photo…superb.

  2. allan becker
    August 19, 2013

    Thank you for sharing your passion for Kiley’s designs with us.It has been delightful experience.

  3. Anne Wareham (@AnneWareham)
    August 19, 2013

    Looks greeeeat! And great to honour the creator.

  4. The Field of Gold
    August 19, 2013

    Love the plane trees. Wish I could grow them like that.

  5. Of Gardens
    August 20, 2013

    As a child I spent a lot of time at Lincoln Center. I always loved being there, outdoors among the plazas. Now, years later as an adult, I know why the spaces were so appealing to be in.

    • landscapelover
      August 24, 2013

      How lovely to have such memories. People claim that the original design of the Center was deliberately stern and unwelcoming, so it is great now to imagine children were happy to play there.

      • Of Gardens
        August 25, 2013

        stern it may have been, but it was wide open space, a luxury for city kids!

  6. diversifolius
    August 20, 2013

    The plane trees esplanade looks magnificent – great picture! I will try to find out more about his other works.

  7. James Golden
    August 24, 2013

    Do you know what year the North Court at Lincoln Center was dismantled?

    • landscapelover
      August 24, 2013

      James, thanks for the question. Kiley’s quartets of plane trees were ripped out in 1990 and replaced with single little pear trees. Many observers felt that that destroyed the design. Kiley said it left the space looking “kind of silly.” There were then years of debate about what should happen to the North Court, with preservationists pressing for the full restoration of Kiley’s design. In the end everything was dismantled in 2009 and a new restaurant and lawn installed in the space. Then, in what I think was a genuine effort to honour Kiley’s work, a single grove of plane trees was planted and a new version of the original reflecting pool installed. In my view, it would have been better just to admit the KIley original was lost, rather than try something so half-hearted and ultimately unsuccessful.

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This entry was posted on August 18, 2013 by in Gardens, Modern design, Paris, Parks, United States and tagged , , , .

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