The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley is designed for multiple audiences – fans of Kiley and of Modernist landscape architecture, architecture, residential and urban design; and the general public, with this introduction to the life and legacy of one of the most important and influential practitioners in the field. The project was organized because the centennial of Kiley’s birth in 2012 went unnoticed and unheralded – something that would not have happened to an architect of similar stature. The project, executed and fully funded in only eleven months, falls within the submitting organization's Landslide program, which was launched in 2003 and brings attention to various threats confronting our shared landscape legacy. Consequently, there are many interwoven messages that are carefully coordinated and disseminated: the Kiley project helps raise the visibility of his life and legacy, as well as Modernist landscape architecture and its fragility; it raises the visibility of our landscape heritage and those responsible for its creation and care; it promotes an informed stewardship ethic; and it promotes the profession generally.
Communicating these interwoven and complementary messages is achieved through a traveling exhibition and dynamic Web site. The show includes 45 newly-commissioned photographs of 27 sites (out of Kiley’s 1,000+ designs) - a representative sampling of his design vocabulary rather than an exhaustive monograph or retrospective. All of the work done by the photographers – including Marion Brenner, Todd Eberle, Peter Vanderwarker, Alan Ward and others – and the photographs themselves, was donated. The exhibition also includes never-before-published family photos by Kiley’s son, Aaron. Each exhibition placard includes commentary from one of Kiley’s contemporaries, a small-scale site plan and other descriptive information. Significantly, this collection represents the first time the plans of all of the included sites have been shown in one location.
The exhibition opened in November 2013 at the Boston Architectural College; its 2014 venues include the National Building Museum in Washington, DC (February 8 – May 18); three sites in Indiana, the Indiana University Center for Art + Design in Columbus, the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne and the Indianapolis Central Library (collectively May 29 – September 14); and then the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s galleries in Pittsburgh, PA through the balance of the year. Plans for 2015 are being finalized for destinations in Chicago, New York, St. Louis and elsewhere, before the exhibition travels farther west in 2016 and 2017. Based on the visitation at each venue, the Kiley exhibition will be seen by tens of thousands of people before it concludes its run. And because of the variety of hosting venues, some geared towards design and others to the general public, a broad swath of the public will be exposed to Kiley’s work. A full-color 72-page Gallery Guide has been created that includes biographical information on Kiley, high-quality color images of each of the photographs included in the show, a site plan and a 250-word design history for each of the featured sites. This Gallery Guide is available for purchase online through the submitting organization’s Web site and on-site at the exhibiting venues. Visitors can also learn more about each of the sites in the show by accessing the initiative’s fully mobile-accessible Web site via a QR code posted at each venue.
The Web site, already viewed by more than 80,000, is more in-depth than the exhibition. Twenty-eight sites are featured, one more than the traveling exhibition, which does not include the National Gallery of Art, a Kiley project undergoing restoration at the time of photography. The Web site also includes a Kiley biography, a detailed history for each site, an assessment of care, maintenance and stewardship, threats to the designed landscape and visibility: specifically the degree to which Kiley’s involvement in the design is promoted by the owner. Graphic scales provide an easy to read format to rank “status” and “visibility”. For example, the Miller House and Garden in Columbus, IN, rates high in both, while other sites could be doing better. Significantly a recurring pattern that we noticed in the assessment of the sites was that museums tended to promote their architect designed buildings as part of their collections, but failed to give the same level of prominence to Kiley and his work. By drawing attention to this theme the submitting organization hopes to elicit change in how these landscapes are perceived and promoted by their owners. For all of the properties these assessments help provide a further picture of where improvements need to be made to ensure their longevity.
The Web site also includes newly-gathered recollections by Kiley’s colleagues that provide insights into his life and work, his family and children, his home and office in Charlotte, VT, his influence on the profession, and his endearing personal idiosyncrasies. Recollections include lively, insightful and entertaining passages from: Jane Amidon; Henry Arnold FASLA; Gregg Bleam FASLA; Gary Hilderbrand FASLA; Joe Karr FASLA; Jonathon Kusko; Elizabeth Meyer FASLA; Peter Morrow Meyer; Roger Osbaldeston MLA; Doug Reed FASLA; Jaquelin Robertson FAIA, FAICP; Kevin Roche FAIA; Peter Schaudt FASLA; Jack Smith FAIA, NCARB; Ken Smith FASLA; Ian Tyndall; Michael Van Valkenburgh FASLA; Charles Waldheim FAAR; Peter Ker Walker; and Peter Walker FASLA. For example, ASLA Medal winner Cornelia Oberlander, O.C., FCSLA, FASLA, BCSLA recalled, “To live with the Kiley family [in the 1950s] was unforgettable. The goat came to the kitchen to be milked at 8am for the porridge.” Architect Harry Wolf FAIA provided an eloquent description of Kiley’s designs: “In all of Dan’s work one sees and learns that one need not shy away from the hand of man, that the vibrancy occurs when man’s mark intersects with nature and that the clearer the mark the more powerful the result.” This is new, original material that both adds to the corpus of Kiley scholarship and provides the general public with a broader, more nuanced portrait of the man and his work.
Since the project’s November 2013 launch, it has been roundly praised. Moreover, the exhibition and Web site are the only publicly-accessible resources that address Kiley’s life and legacy, and the current state of a select body of his work. It has received media coverage nationwide, including the Associated Press (which generate scores of print and online media stories), as well as The New York Times, Washington Post, Landscape Architecture Magazine, LAND8, Land Online, World Landscape Architecture and numerous others. The combination of an in-person, print and on-line component have guaranteed the project a lengthy shelf-life and broad distribution; that will continue to educate and inspire, and hopefully, through this outreach, achieve a previously unimaginable level of understanding of and protection for Kiley’s work, and the profession itself.