The Garden Guide

Kiley, Dan

Born - Died : 1912 - 2004

Dan Kiley was born in Boston Mass in 1912. From the age of 20 to 26 he worked in the office of Warren Manning. Like Fletcher Steele, who had worked for Manning 30 years before, he then enrolled in Harvard's landscape architecture programme. He made friends with his classmates James Rose and Garret Eckbo and, like Steele, left before graduating. Kiley took a job, as Associate Town Planning Architect, with the United States Housing Authority where he had the good fortune to make friends with Louis Kahn and Eero Saarinen. Kiley left the Authority in 1940 and began to work on residential projects, including a garden for the Edmund Bacon (later the author of Design of cities). From 1942-45 Kiley served with the Army Corps of Engineers, including a spell as architect for the Nuremberg Trials Courtroom, which gave him an opportunity to visit European Gardens. The geometrical purity of Le Notre impressed him, and laid the basis for his own future classicism. In 1955 he worked with Saarinen on the Miller garden. Inspired by Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion, and the De Stijl movement, it had a grid plan and full integration of indoor with outdoor space. As in Palladian villas, geometrical shapes were valued for their Neoplatonic purity. Palladio projected the geometry of the Villa Rotunda to form the entrance steps, but no further. Kiley and Saarinen projected the grid of the building to structure the outdoor space around the building in a Mondrian-type asymmetrical pattern. There was also a picturesque transition from Garden to Meadow to Wood. The Miller garden was widely acclaimed and became a key American example of the Abstract style. It is at once splendidly modern and rooted in tradition. Like Palladio and Schoenmaekers, Kiley believes the perfect geometrical forms have a cosmic awareness. He aimed to 'express this connectedness with the universe' in his design approach. Kiley's subsequent projects, evidencing a beautifully proportioned grid-based classicism, include the United States Air Force Academy, the Oakland Museum, Independence Mall in Philadelphia, the Dallas Museum of Art, and Fountain Place in Texas. In her book on The Modern Garden (2000) Jane Brown rightly describes Kiley as 'the supreme master of the modern garden'.

Laurie Olin lecture on Dan Kiley:


Gardens designed by Kiley, Dan