Skip to main content

Opening April 18 at CAC, this traveling photographic exhibition features 45 vibrant photographs that chronicle the current state of 27 of Dan Kiley’s more than 1,000 projects.

Adapted from texts by The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Who was Dan Kiley?

Dan Kiley (1912-2004) was one of the most important and influential Modernist landscape architects of the 20th century. He worked with equally significant architects, such as Eero Saarinen, Louis Kahn and I.M. Pei, to create internationally renowned projects.

Kiley was an idiosyncratic figure. Always brimming with ideas, he rarely failed to make an impression. According to architect Jaquelin Robertson, Kiley “looked like a cross between a leprechaun and a Tyrolean ski instructor.” Meanwhile, landscape architect Laurie Olin said that “Dan’s thoughts are like rabbits—they just keep leaping out.”

Kiley's Work

Kiley’s design vocabulary was influenced by André Le Nôtre, the 17th-century French landscape designer and gardener to King Louis XIV. His designs were often based on grids and walkways that could be manipulated to create both intimate enclosures and sprawling expanses. The order, geometry and endless sweep of landscapes at Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte were conceptual inspirations for Kiley’s work.

Among the 27 sites included in the exhibition, you’ll find notable places such as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri (featuring Saarinen’s Gateway Arch) and the Ford Foundation in New York City (by architect Kevin Roche). There are also a handful of private residences in the exhibition, including the famed Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana (another collaboration with Saarinen, as well as designer Alexander Girard). Several of Kiley’s projects have been lost or severely altered, such as Lincoln Center in New York City and Dulles Airport near Washington D.C. These works are not exhibited as their original designs are no longer present.

Kiley has three works in the Chicago area: Milton Lee Olive Park (by Ohio Street Beach), the South Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Esplanade at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Both Olive Park and the Art Institute’s South Garden (located directly across the street from CAC) are included in the exhibition.

The Exhibition

Remarkably, the centennial of Kiley’s birth in 2012 went uncelebrated—something that would not have happened with many architects of similar stature. That’s why The Cultural Landscape Foundation decided to create a traveling photographic exhibition featuring 45 newly commissioned images of Kiley-designed landscapes in the United States and France.

One of the main purposes of The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley is to prompt questions and discussions about responsible stewardship of parks and landscapes. The present-day condition of Kiley’s legacy is mixed. Some works are neglected while others are carefully maintained. It speaks to a wider conversation in the current preservation movement: What do we do with our Modernist buildings, parks and landscapes? And how do we make them relevant and accessible to 21st-century citizens?

We at CAC, along with The Cultural Landscape Foundation, hope that you enjoy seeing the work of Dan Kiley and considering the future of these landscapes.