New Yorkers have long had an ambivalent relationship with Lincoln Center—proud of its world-famous cultural institutions but wary of its cold, Robert-Moses urban-renewal, anti-urban heritage. Yet when preservationists attacked the proposed redesign by Diller Scofidio & Renfro they did so on firm grounds: the redesign would undermine, perhaps destroy, the North Court’s holistic essence, the elegant collaboration of Saarinen’s Vivian Beaumont Theater with Kiley’s landscape and reflecting pool. And, indeed, the Kiley landscape has been so dismantled that it is not included in the current exhibit.
As architecture critic Tom Bamberger notes in writing about Kiley’s stunted plans for the Milwaukee Art Museum, Kiley is “all structure. So everything matters—the height of the bushes and water, the texture of the grass, and the relief of the planes.” This summary applies equally to Lincoln Center which, like the Milwaukee Museum, neglected maintenance of several landscape elements, delivering a convenient excuse for removal and “updating.” Landscape architect Ken Smith, who characterizes the former North Court as an “expression of Kiley’s mature style,” particularly deplores the neglect followed by the removal of the plane trees. “Kiley lived in the woods and really knew his trees,” says Smith. “He knew that trees can grow close together if they shared soil. This was a pioneering application of shared beds. And now it’s gone.”
PUBLIC: Lincoln Center grounds are mostly open to the public
The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley runs through June 20, 2015
Center for Architecture
Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-8pm; Sat: 11am-5pm
Where: 536 LaGuardia Place
Email: [email protected]