Dan Kiley and the artificial infinite
Eischeid, Mark Romley
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Dan Kiley (American, 1912-2004) is one of the most highly regarded modernist landscape architects of the 20th century. As described in Kiley scholarship to-date, his decades-long practice exhibits a commitment to modernism inspired by classical landscape elements and modernist spatial techniques as a means of recreating the experience of a “walk in nature”. An unexamined aspect of Kiley scholarship is his consistent references to infinity in published writing and interviews, references which date as far back as the 1960s and continue into the 1990s, and therefore span much of his professional career. These references to infinity are often used to describe a personal appreciation of nature as well as an intentional approach to design. Through an analysis of these references, literature review of Kiley scholarship, interviews with selected Kiley colleagues, and archival research and site visits of five case studies (Miller Garden, North Christian Church, Fountain Place, Kiley Garden, and Donald J. Hall Sculpture Garden), this thesis examines the way in which Kiley referred to infinity and how he may have expressed infinity in his designed landscapes. This examination is contextualised within the histories of the ideas of infinity and artificial infinity in mathematics, theology, cosmology, art, and design. The history of the artificial infinite is synthesised into an updated taxonomy of expressions of the artificial infinite which is applied for an analysis of the case studies. The five case studies illustrate varying levels of richness and clarity, where expressions of the artificial infinite are spatially distributed and/or layered, connective and/or isolated (horizontally and/or vertically), and clearly expressed and/or interrupted. This analysis of the artificial infinite in the landscape architecture of Dan Kiley deepens our understanding of his design approach, connects Kiley to a longer and broader history of cultural ideas and expression, leads to a more nuanced understanding of modernist landscape architecture in the USA, broadens our understanding of the expression of infinity in landscape architecture, and demonstrates the applicability of an interpretive technique grounded in aesthetic analysis that could be applied to both art and design.