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Dan Kiley - in His Own Words: America's Master Landscape Architect

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Now in his late 80s but still with a busy practice, Dan Kiley has been eminent in landscape architecture for decades, writes Andrew Mead. His collaborators have included such architects as Eero Saarinen, Kevin Roche and I M Pei and, more recently, Santiago Calatrava.

Some 40 of Kiley's several hundred projects are featured in photographs and drawings in this title, with Kiley supplying a commentary on each of them, as well as an introductory chapter on 'Philosophy, Inspiration, Process'.

Like fellow students James Rose and Garrett Eckbo, Kiley reacted against the Beaux-Arts conservatism of teaching at Harvard in the 1930s, but it was his post-war encounter with the landscapes of Andre Le Notre that then gave him his direction. His subsequent aim was to reconcile the clarity, structure and breadth of such designs with a modern spatial sensibility.

Kiley stresses that his schemes aren't imposed upon their sites but 'latent' within them; the diagram that generates a design 'comes straight from what the site tells you - but you must see it with an eye for balance and proportion.' Although Kiley's clients are often corporate or institutional and - as at Fountain Place, Dallas (see above right) - his geometry of allees, platforms, pools, fountains and architectonic planting has to govern a considerable area, there is nonetheless a softness and sensuousness to his designs. Blossoms from a grid of magnolia trees lie in beautiful disarray on the lawn of the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC (see left); order is blurred.

On a more intimate scale, the photographs of a domestic scheme in upland Massachusetts corroborate Kiley's description of 'driving off the highway into a different environment of soaring trunks, leaf-filtered light and secret mountain brooks.' Broad grass steps descend to an irregular pool at the hillside edge; linear stone pavers and clipped yew define an enclave in the forest.

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