Modern-Era Dan Kiley Landscape Threatened at Lincoln Center
Published January 20, 2005
The proposed master plan improvements include a number of very good elements, such as removing the bridge platform at 65th Street and opening up and pedestrianizing that corridor.
The overall originality of the design is refreshing and impressive. The only big problems are the removal of the Dan Kiley landscape and the precedent that the Beaumont North Court redesign would establish for destroying the Kiley design for Damrosch Park in the next phase of design. It appears unnecessary to remove the Kiley landscape to achieve the master plan's overall objective of improving the 65th Street corridor. Instead, the new design is more predicated on giving the site an overall cosmetic consistent treatment and a new look. My assessment is that the Lincoln Center campus could achieve most of its programmatic objectives without fundamentally altering the integrity of the Kiley-designed landscape.
The preservation of modern works of landscape architecture often does not get the same attention as preservation of modern architecture—one case in point is the current discourse surrounding the future of Ed Stone's design for 2 Columbus Circle. The destruction of a seminal work of landscape architecture by the Presidential Medal of Arts recipient, Dan Kiley, is a serious issue within the landscape architecture and historic preservation communities. The Kiley landscape at Lincoln Center has performed well for nearly fifty years. Kiley's "quartet" planters with their tightly spaced tree bosques give a strong sense of order and continuity to the complex as a whole. His signature use of strong, simple and well proportioned planters creates spatial containment and a balanced relationship between the series of open plazas, courts and shaded bosque areas. "Quartets" of plane trees were planted in twenty-foot square travertine planters, which were partially recessed to minimize their scale. The mature trees today at Damrosch are lovely, healthy, and a testament to the power of Kiley's urban forest concept. The Lincoln Center redevelopment proposal really glosses over the Dan Kiley landscape issue by talking about respecting the original design when, in fact, they really are completely demolishing the Kiley original.